The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen spent the majority of the more than four hours of budget workshops on Monday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 8, asking department heads to clarify 2014-15 budget line items and costs to begin the budgeting process.
The budget includes some loftier long-term items in the Capital Improvement Program list, like a new town hall facility that would cost $2.5 million throughout 125 years.
Town manager Tim Owens said he has not attempted to balance the budget or cut expenses. Items were presented as outlined by department heads, but with a subsequent list of budget balancing options.
Since the budget has not been balanced, there are currently more than $1 million estimated shortfalls in both the general fund and water and sewer fund, with total revenues at about $12.6 million compared to $15 million in expenditures.
The board could choose to eliminate budget balancing options, like the $5,000 Carolina Beach dredging contribution, employee pay raises or the new town hall facility.
One factor that could impact the budget significantly is if New Hanover County increases the solid waste tipping fee. Those contracted services at the current rate of $59 per ton for the county incinerator would cost the town an estimated $295,000.
With a projected $350,000 increase in parking meter revenue and $49,000 increase in parking meter civil penalties revenue, there is still a total estimated revenue loss of about $385,000 compared to the -2013-14 budget. Parking is the second highest revenue source behind ad valorem taxes.
Owens said one reason for the revenue decrease is from the $434,000 new fire truck, which will be in the town’s hands in August 2014. The truck was paid for with cash and a $175,000 loan.
Other civil penalties, including dog and beach alcohol violations, will generate an estimated $82,500 in revenue.
Mayor Bill Blair asked Owens to spend more time making sure revenue estimates are accurate, so board members do not remove CIP items unnecessarily.
The board could talk about increasing water and sewer rates to help fund water system maintenance.
The town’s water rates are the fourth lowest of 408 water companies in comparison, Owens said.
“We’re not addressing the capital with the revenue we’re generating,” he said.
Steve Dellies, assistant public works director, said Wrightsville Beach charges $1.01 per 748 gallons, while many companies charge per 1,000 gallons due to the meters. When comparing the rates to Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach charges $2.35 less per 1,000 gallons. Kure Beach numbers are not accurate comparisons, because they do not charge maintenance fees like Wrightsville Beach.
Long-term water system options, including a potential agreement with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, will be discussed in a future meeting.
A smaller concern the board has is the amount of signs and the cost of sign upkeep throughout town.
Within the public works department streets budget, regulatory, beach access and public access signs cost $7,000.
There are two future budget workshops scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday, April 21 and Tuesday, April 29.