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The Daily Tar Heel

Council to Consider Halting Fourth of July Celebration

The Chapel Hill Town Council is holding a work session today from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to discuss ways of saving money, where options including canceling the annual celebration likely will be discussed.

Officials say spending needs to be selective this year to account for the state's $900 million budget shortfall. Because of the deficit, the state withheld $1.4 million from Chapel Hill this year.

Town Council members say they would like to save the celebration but believe canceling the events would help save the town a significant amount of money.

The 2001 festivities cost Chapel Hill $24,500. Fireworks accounted for $12,000 of the expenditures.

Council member Flicka Bateman said she hopes the town can save the money and continue the Fourth of July celebration.

"I certainly hope we don't have to eliminate (the celebration)," Bateman said. "I hope we can swing it in our budget."

But council member Pat Evans said cutting something from the budget is inevitable.

"It's important citizens understand how strapped we are," Evans said. "We've got to do some cutting."

Council member Jim Ward said he would not like the celebration to be eliminated, but the council is in a difficult situation.

"I would be sad to see (the celebration) cut," Ward said. "But at the same time, people need to understand that this budget year is an extraordinary event."

Evans said the council is being forced to take away some events to keep a tax increase as low as possible.

"If (the celebration) is eliminated, we won't have to raise taxes as much," Evans said. "We are in a very difficult budget situation."

Ward said the Fourth of July celebration is not the only thing the council is considering cutting.

"We're experiencing cuts across the board," Ward said. "We're delaying cap increases, delaying maintenance work and delaying sidewalks and greenways."

But Bateman said the council is thinking of ways of changing the celebration so it does not cost the town as much as it has in the past.

"We're looking at all areas," Bateman said. "Maybe we won't do fireworks or have a concert instead."

Bateman said other ways of funding the celebration, like having more corporate sponsors or charging money at the gate, also will be considered.

Ward said that if the council must cancel the celebration this year, it will be brought back in future years.

"I think it's a very popular event," Ward said.

"The council recognizes its importance. I would think that it would be a quick thing to get back funding."

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