CAROLINA BEACH—Carolina Beach’s population triples in size during the summer season and then drops back down in the winter, but town staff does not ebb and flow accordingly.
Carolina Beach Mayor Joe Benson and Council member Steve Shuttleworth held an informal, town hall meeting at American Legion Post 129 Wednesday night to discuss recent budget changes and to set an expectation for potential staff cuts.
Last week, Carolina Beach passed a budget ordinance for the fiscal year 2018-2019 that included increased parking, water and sewer and Freeman Park fees.
Previously operating with a $2 million deficit, Shuttleworth said the increased fees were a way for Council to balance an unbalanced budget.
“We chose to raise revenues that were as minor an impact on our residents, the taxpayers, as we could, and pushing that off on our visitors,” Shuttleworth said.
Carolina Beach Town Manager Michael Cramer has typically asked Council to budget a large amount out of the general fund, without covering the deficit with anticipated revenues, Shuttleworth said. This year, Carolina Beach has closed the deficit gap to approximately $360,000 deficit.
“Typically the gap has been huge, that hasn’t been comfortable for me for a number of years and I keep getting after [Cramer] and staff,” Shuttleworth said.
Shifting the burden onto visitors rather than year-round residents, Council passed increased rate changes after a public hearing on June 12.
With a $24 million total budget, Mayor Joe Benson said nearly 50 percent is going to personnel and benefits.
“That’s the escalating cost,” Benson said. “It’s unsustainable.”
Councilwoman LeAnn Pierce suggested to Carolina Beach staff of the need to conduct an internal efficiency study by an outside third party. Mayor Benson likened such a study to the 1990s film, “Office Space.”
“Very soon there’s going to be a meeting with the town manager, to come up with a plan, just so you know, to reduce personnel and benefits by somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-percent,” Benson said.
Though Carolina Beach’s full-time population is 6,000 to 8,000 people, its staff does not reduce during the off-season, with the exception of Ocean Rescue services. During busy summer weekends, Shuttleworth said the town’s population can quadruple.
“We are forced to have a larger police department, larger fire department, we have more responses, we have more trash problems,” Shuttleworth said. “We as taxpayers pay a big burden to have extra staff.”
There are 117.5 full-time positions budgeted for Fiscal Year 2018-2019, costing the town a total of $9,300,210 in personnel and benefits.
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