Sunday, February 25, 2024

No tax increase in Southport, new police officers, city staff positions added

Southport's new fiscal budget could provide the city much-needed general fund relief, while still not raising property taxes.

The City of Southport could soon enact its new 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
The City of Southport will soon enact its new 2019-2020 fiscal year budget. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)

SOUTHPORT — After a tough fiscal year, the City of Southport’s finances could be looking up.

In the proposed 2019-2020 budget, Southport proposes no property tax increase, adding one part-time and seven full-time positions, and adding $117,000 back into its struggling general fund.

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The proposed $8.2 million operating budget includes spending $1.13 million more between town departments than the current fiscal year, all while avoiding major department cuts. How?

More revenue

Recent tax revaluations will bring in 15% more revenue this coming fiscal year, an estimated $371,354 bump compared current property tax revenues. Without the revaluations, Southport Manager Bruce Oakley said in his budget message a 3-cent property tax increase would have been necessary.

Instead, taxes are proposed to remain steady at 29.56 cents per every $100 of evaluated property. Property tax rates in the city were last raised in 2017 following a 20% hike.

“Our finance director and department heads did a great job of reviewing everything and finding the cuts they could to make the budget balanced without increases,” Oakley said.

The city is also projecting ABC revenues to jump by 58%, bringing in $139,000 more in 2019-2020. If the city’s land deal with Southport Marina closes as expected in August, it will give the general fund a $650,000 boost. The additional general fund padding is needed; in January, the city’s percentage of available funds to expenditures was just 12.2%.

The Local Government Commission prefers to see 30 percent of a coastal communities’ fund balance available.

New positions

After losing its top two chiefs last summer following a joint FBI and SBI investigation, Oakley said Southport’s Police Department will be back at full strength in 2019-2020.

An audit of the department following the arrests revealed systematic, cultural issues within the department that resulted in mismanaged evidence. After Police Chief Todd Coring was appointed, he reset the rank of remaining officers.

Oakley’s new budget includes room for two additional officers. The new officers will be used to increase officer safety and provide more community policing efforts.

Despite Hurricane Florence’s damage, the city projects increased Room Occupancy Tax and tourism revenues. The City plans to add a part-time position in the Tourism Department who will also double as a Public Information Officer.

Four new Fire Department positions are proposed, with three full-time firefighters and one weekend-lead firefighter. This will allow the department to more adequately serve the Yaupon district, which it agreed to take on this fiscal year.

The city could also add a financial specialist position to help handle the high demands in the Finance Department, according to Oakley’s budget message.

View Southport’s proposed 2019-2020 fiscal budget.

Update: On Thursday, Southport Alderman voted to hold another budget meeting prior to adoption. The special meeting will be held Monday, June 17 at 4 p.m. at City Hall.


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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