Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Kure Beach residents to see increased costs in new budget

Located at the south end of Pleasure Island, Kure Beach consists of a few small businesses and homes (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
The Kure Beach Town Council approved the fiscal year 2025 budget with increases to property taxes, garbage, recycling, and wastewater fees. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

KURE BEACH — Kure Beach residents will experience increases in property taxes and fees as part of the approved 2024-2025 budget.

The budget, unanimously approved by the Kure Beach Town Council at their June 17 meeting, includes a 9.1% increase in property taxes, a 25% increase in garbage fees, a 5.3% increase in recycling collection, and a 10% rate tier increase to water and sewer fees.

“Some of the reasons that expenses are going up — of course, like everybody, you know — costs are increasing,” financial and budget officer Arlen Copenhaver said at the May 20 meeting. 

Copenhaver, in agreement with the town’s budget report, attributes most of the fee increases, including the property tax hike, to the heightened cost of operation.

Property taxes are being raised from $0.2658 to $0.29, a 2.42-cent or 9.1% increase per $100 of valuation. According to the town’s budget report, the rise in property taxes is necessary to maintain town services, address rising costs of materials and services, and ensure competitive salaries, aligning with the council’s budgetary goals.

The report attributed the rising cost of trash service to increased costs from providers. Previously, garbage collection cost $7 for the first cart and $14 for each additional cart. Under the new budget, the first cart will cost $8.75, and each additional cart will be $17.50. The price for commercial carts will rise from $30.63 to $38.29.

“I will say on the garbage collection, these rates have not changed for six years, and the costs have significantly increased,” Copenhaver said at the council’s May 20 meeting. “So that’s the driving force behind the need to increase these rates.”

The town’s curbside recycling services will go from $9.57 to $10.08 per can. Copenhaver explained the recycling fee increase reflects the service provider’s charges.

The other fee adjustment will affect water and sewer services throughout the city. While the minimum charge remains unchanged, there will be a 10% increase in the tiered fee system.

Customers using 2,000 gallons or less per month will see no change to their bill. However, those using over 2,000 gallons will notice a $0.0653 increase per gallon.

“To continue the philosophy that we’ve had for a number of years at this point, we want to place more financial responsibility on those who use the most water resources,” Copenhaver said.

According to the budget report, the changes to water and sewer fees will impact approximately 55% of residents. These adjustments align with the council’s budgetary goals of ensuring the integrity of town financial data and maintaining financial stability. One specific goal is to set tax and water/sewer rates to support the expected level of service for the town’s citizens.

Copenhaver noted the fees residents pay for water and sewer services cover operating expenses, future infrastructure repairs and replacements, construction, and water shut-offs.

“There are other fees such as tap connection cut-off fees when there is new construction, and for water and sewer taps cut off when people do not pay their bills. These costs are recovered through these fees,” he explained.

The budget is divided into seven sectors: general, water and sewer, stormwater, Powell Bill, federal asset forfeiture, beach protection, and sewer expansion reserve. The general fund is the largest, amounting to approximately $9.1 million in the new budget, marking a 12.6% increase from last year’s budget.

The general fund budget also enhances town staff compensation and includes funding for a new police officer position. According to the town’s website, the salary for this position, depending on prior training and experience, ranges from $55,321.68 to $88,514.47.

A 2.8% merit increase will be included for full-time employees who exceed expectations, and a 3.2% pay increase for all full-time town employees to cover the cost of living adjustment as required by the Social Security Administration.

“We must remain competitive with what we pay employees. It’s important these days,” Copenhaver said. “It’s difficult to attract employees, and we want to make sure we retain them.”

The general fund also includes a capital expenditure of $683,169, representing a 112% increase from last year. A portion of these funds will be used for street paving, while other money will go toward replacing various vehicles, including a garbage truck, a police car, and an ocean rescue truck. It will also cover the replacement of a fire department generator and ocean rescue equipment.

The water and sewer fund includes a capital expenditure of $400,000 for potential and emergency capital projects that may arise during the fiscal year, as well as $60,000 for the replacement of a lift station generator.

The budget will go into effect July 1.

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