STALLINGS — Town council voted Tuesday to allow town staff to organize a golf tournament to benefit Stallings Police Department, but some members of the council questioned the decision.
Town manager Brian Matthews requested the council’s permission to hold a golf tournament to raise money for upgrading the department’s existing automated external defibrillator, installing GPS tracking systems in police vehicles and the implementation of school programs, which were not included in the proposed 2012-13 budget.
Matthews said the town held a similar fundraiser in 2006 during which they raised about $15,000.
Matthews said he also asked the town’s volunteer fire department to partner in the fundraiser if it was approved.
While some asked why those items weren’t included in the town’s proposed budget, councilman Reed Esarove said it’s because Matthews was trying to maintain the town’s tax rate without inflating the police department’s budget.
In the 2012-13 budget, that budget is around $1.9 million.
“I’m a huge supporter of the fundraiser,” Esarove said. “(At the beginning of the budget process) I challenged the parks and recreation department and the police department to find creative ways to generate revenues for things that are not included in the budget.”
He said it all boils down to balancing wants and needs and that those items weren’t included in the budget because while the department and town would like to provide those services, they weren’t absolute necessities.
Esarove said the benefit of a fundraiser is that a lot of the money can come from outside of town through donations, 85 percent of which will be tax deductible since the town is not a nonprofit.
He explained the money will be tracked, just like any other money the town takes in, and budget amendments will have to be made to include the funds raised in the police department’s budget and track its spending.
He added the golf tournament will not cost tax payers any money because the cost of putting on the event will be paid for by money generated by the fundraiser itself.
It also will not be mandatory that police officers participate in the fundraiser off the clock. State statute prohibits that, as well as on-the-clock participation.
Esarove said town staff also has been directed to work with the town attorney to make sure everything is handled properly.
“This golf tournament makes sense,” Esarove said. “In the real world, to the citizens of our community, this is a no-brainer.”
But Mayor Lynda Paxton disagreed.
“What appears to be a simple, fun activity at first blush is actually very complex with a number of ethical, legal and fiscal control issues related to proper planning and budgeting for town revenues and expenditures,” she said.
Jill Reed, a resident and former council member, spoke during Tuesday night’s meeting and said she didn’t like the idea of officers participating in a fundraiser, though she does support what the money from it will go to.
“We have a budget process for a reason, so elected officials can have a say on what’s purchased. And these were never brought for consideration,” she said. “This is a backward way for managing government.”
Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, the board voted to donate a piece of land to the N.C. Department of Transportation, near InTown Suites on Highway 74, for use of right-of-way for the proposed Monroe Bypass.
Council agreed to donate only if the need for the right-of-way actually arises.
The town council’s next meeting is June 11 at 7 p.m. at town hall.