Bladenboro seeks new town administrator

BLADENBORO — Bladenboro Town Administrator Melanie Hester will be returning to her familiar role as town clerk once a new town administrator is hired, according to Mayor Rufus Duckworth.

Duckworth said Utility Clerk Brittney Allen resigned her position recently creating a vacancy and Pam Bowen, who currently serves as town clerk, expressed a desire to return to her previous role as utility clerk. Duckworth said Hester also expressed to the board a desire to return to her former position as town clerk.

“We have granted them their wishes,” said Duckworth.

He added that both Hester and Bowen will remain in their current roles until a new town administrator is hired. Duckworth said Bowen and Hester will also assist the board in their search for a new town administrator.He stressed the staffing changes were what both Bowen and Hester had requested.

Duckworth said “the board is grateful to Bowen and Hester for their assistance in the transition to a new form of governance that has taken place in the past” 18 months.

During its called meeting on Monday, the board also discussed the budget and studied the revaluation numbers given to the town staff by the county. Duckworth said the town’s tax base is reported to be $5.8 to $5.9 million less in real property value according to the county’s recent revaluation figures.

Duckworth said the board is looking at different scenarios with the budget and, to achieve a revenue neutral rate, the board would have to increase property taxes to 0.643 cents per $100 valuation. The town’s tax rate currently is 0.59 cents per $100 valuation.

Duckworth said the budget is a story of good and bad news.

“We’ve got a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is we’ve made our budget so tight there is no fat. The bad thing is we have no dollars,” said Duckworth.

He did add that preliminary budget figures from the 2014-15 fiscal year indicate there may be some slight growth in the town’s fund balance, though he didn’t give exact figures. Duckworth praised the efforts of town staff, the police chief, the maintenance supervisor and all town employees with trying to keep expenses down as much as possible throughout the year.

He added the board had Hester to review some budget items which include a GPS system for the town’s patrol cars and body cameras for the town’s police officers. Duckworth said the board may choose to wait on the GPS system and Bladenboro Police Chief Chris Hunt has applied for a grant to help defray some of the expenses of obtaining the body cameras.

“We’re going to have to make some hard decisions next Monday night. I’m sure we’ll reach the right decision. It’s about what is the best for the town,” said Duckworth.

The board will convene Monday at 7 p.m. to discuss the budget situation.

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.