CAROLINA BEACH — Carolina Beach’s proposed budget, aimed at repairing its fund balance and increasing staff compensation, includes several unpopular solutions.
The proposed budget includes increasing utility fees by 10%, increasing property taxes by nearly 9%, cutting five positions, cutting $246,000 from the parks budget, and cutting $15,000 in funding to six non-profits.
Carolina Beach Council met Monday to review its new manager’s fiscal year 2019-2020 budget proposal. Six months into the gig, Lucky Narain came up with budget reductions as Carolina Beach’s town manager in order to mitigate issues he inherited.
Monday’s budget presentation was Narain’s second. The proposed budget was not yet publicly available at the time of last month’s first presentation.
Fee, tax increases
Property taxes could increase by 8.8%, from 22.5 cents to 24.5 cents per every $100 of evaluated property.
“We need the money, in my opinion, in order to sustain operation,” Narain said of the tax increase.
With aging infrastructure, Narain said the town’s utility system is losing money.
“We’re not breaking even. We’re having to borrow from our reserve to make ends meet,” he said.
Narain proposed increasing water and sewer utility fees by 10%, instead of the 5% that was originally planned for. “Is this a bump? Yes, it’s a bump. is it uncomfortable? Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Do we have severe needs that we need to spend the money on? We do.”
Five currently unfilled positions would not be filled next budget cycle, saving Carolina Beach $347,428. The unrenewed vacant positions include one administrative support specialist, one School Resource Officer, two police department beach patrol officers, and one detective.
“If we haven’t filled [the positions] for two months, and we’re doing okay, can we perhaps not backfill them?” Narain asked Monday.
These savings will help the town’s 114 full-time employees receive more competitive wages, according to Narain. A recent pay study showed town employees are about 11% underpaid; it would take an estimated total of $1 million to get wages on par.
Carolina Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department would take a $246,000 hit, under the proposed budget. This includes removing $150,000 originally attributed to the Lake Park playground, planned $65,000 sand volleyball courts on Cape Fear Boulevard, and $35,000 for Mike Chappel Park bathroom renovation.
Donations to non-profits the town supports could also be reduced. A total of $15,000 would be saved, by reducing donations to the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Friends of Felines, Island of Lights, Pleasure Island PAWS, Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Lo Tide Fund, and The Help Center of Federal Point.
Carolina Beach Town Council encourages as much public participation as possible before it moves to adopt the budget as presented. The full proposed budget is available online now.
A budget hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at Council Chambers.