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Thursday, May 30, 2024

No property tax increase in Surf City budget, but sewer costs are rising

The 2024-2025 fiscal year budget has been released for Surf City. (Port City Daily/File)

PENDER COUNTY — A small Pender County beach town will be keeping property taxes on its residents the same next fiscal year. Though they can expect to pay more in sewer and stormwater fees.

The budget is proposed to be just more than $33 million, spread out as such:

  • General Fund — $16,451,037
  • Accommodation Tax Fund — $2,928,000
  • Water Enterprise Fund: $3,825,445
  • Sewer Enterprise Fund: $5,320,712
  • Storm Water Enterprise Fund: $460,245
  • Capital Reserve Fund: $275,790
  • Beach Renourishment Fund: $3,822,901

The largest source of revenue to the town comes from property taxes, $0.41 cents per $100, accounting for a little more than $8 million. Each cent of property tax equates $198,471 in revenue stream. Taxes won’t be raised on residents this year, according to the town.

However, $10 will be added to the sewer service fee for base consumption. Surf City has grown by roughly 4% from 2020 to 2023 according to the U.S. Census, meaning upgrades are needed to keep pace. The town is investing $60 million into the sewer system in the next five years.

Last fall, the Town of Surf City was given $20 million from the state to enhance its wastewater treatment capabilities. But inflation has still provided roadblocks to funding.

According to David Price, the town public utilities director, 2014 to 2020 saw an 18% inflation in the industry and the utilities raised rates 12% in 2020 just to maintain operations. Since then, there has been an additional 23% increase.

Price said the rates will have to increase in coming years to expand the current plant in Holly Ridge.

“Either we do it today for investment or in two years for rehabilitation,” he said in a question-and-answer video posted to the city’s website.

In addition to the $10 fee, there will be a 12% increase to tiered consumption beyond the 0- to 2,000-gallon rate, Town Manager Kyle Breuer explained.

The current plant uses 1.5 million gallons a day and the town projects it will need to operate at 3 million gallons a day by 2040.

The creation of a stormwater utility department will be funded through another fee, too.

“It is being proposed to be $6 calculated on an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU),” Breuer said.

The fees will begin July 1, 2024 and appear on the utility bills.

In the budget, water and sewer fees are estimated to bring in $9.1 million, to cover the utilities department needs.

Beach nourishment is a priority as well for FY 2024-2025 with $3.8 million planned from the occupancy and ad valorem taxes, as well as parking revenues.

The budget covers growth and development, too, including an added Community Development Department personnel, to address the balloon in population. Surf City is located in the second fastest growing county, Pender, statewide.

Roughly $675,000 will go streets and sidewalks maintenance and construction and adding personnel to that department. Overall, a 3.2% cost of living adjustment and 2.5% merit adjustment has been included for personnel.

A public hearing is planned for the budget at May 7’s council meeting.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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