The City of Lumberton reached out to the Lamar County Board of Supervisors on Thursday for help in their financial situation.
Lumberton Mayor Ben Winston asked the board to assign Lamar County Sheriff’s Department officers to Lumberton’s city limits. Shifting the officers would allow the city to cut the Lumberton Police Department from the budget.
According to Winston, city employees are paid through the budget, and by laying off officers the city would have access to needed funds.
Several board members were skeptical of what caused Lumberton’s financial situation to get out of hand.
“I don’t feel you’ve done all you can do,” Lamar County Board Member Mike Backstrom told Winston.
Several board members suggested the city raise taxes nearly two months ago to pump money back into the general fund.
“Before we ask our tax payers… to fork over and to give money for an effort, we have to make sure as the board of supervisors that the city has done all they could within itself to try to move forward,” said Philip Carlisle board member.
Lumberton’s Alderwoman Cora Rogers said the city has raised the price of water in the past, but the lack of large businesses is the reason for the gap in tax revenue.
According to Rodgers, the city didn’t raise property taxes because of the classification and age of the Lumberton residents.
Rodgers said if Lumberton raised taxes, no one would be able to afford the tax hike.
Board Member Dale Lucas said, “It looks like what you’re really looking for here is a Band-Aid or a quick fix.”
Backstrom said the sheriff’s department could not honor the mayor’s request.
“Nobody on our board is anti-Lumberton,” Carlisle said. “Everybody wishes the best for Lumberton, [but] when you represent people, you’re accountable to them we just have to make sure that we can explain why we do what we do monetarily.”
If the Lumberton Police Department is cut, the city would be left without protection. The Lamar County Sheriff’s Department would be the only option for response, according to Winston.
Winston said that the financial situation of Lumberton is the city’s top priority, and the Lumberton Police Department is the biggest challenge for freeing up extra money.
“We’re going to go back and have a meeting and we hope to have some people at our meeting that can help us [establish] some direction on some of the things available to us that we can take advantage of,” Winston said.