To balance the 2014-15 Wrightsville Beach budget, town manager Tim Owens cut about $1.2 million with Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen looking into cutting and replacing other line items.
The board made a list of items it wants to revisit as the budget process continues during the Monday, April 21 budget workshop.
Those items include $10,000 for bike path funding, $30,000 for town website redesign, $13,000 for a public works air compressor, $40,000 to erect a public works shower facility, $20,000 to remove the step in town hall council chambers, implementation of a police department vehicle take home program, and the possible discontinuation of the beach ambassadors program.
Police chief Dan House suggested using the $61,500 set aside for a new vehicle in the 2013-14 budget to purchase three used cars for the vehicle take home program. For the program, the department would need a total of about five cars. The department would be willing to go without its car washing program, laundry services and other requests, reducing the overall 2014-15 department budget request in favor of the assigned vehicle program.
“We had the same program when I worked in Wilson,” House said. “… It worked really well.”
Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills directed Owens to check insurance prices for the vehicles.
The majority of expenses Owens cut came from department staff overtime and bonds and insurance. He brought those numbers closer to actual costs from previous years.
“It’s within reach balancing the budget for the year,” Owens said Tuesday, April 22. “It’s just really a matter of what priorities the board may want to add or take out.”
The updated budget also includes the removal of $5,000 of funds for Carolina Beach dredging.
The board’s lengthiest discussion during the workshop was how to handle future pickups by public works employees for vegetative yard debris.
Currently, two public works employees pick up vegetative yard debris three days per week, or about 2,500 hours per year.
“Last calendar year, we picked up 2,369 piles of vegetative yard debris,” said Mike Vukelich, public works director.
The department only charges for pickups more than 2 cubic yards, accounting for 384 pickups during the last calendar year.
“It’s a lot of man hours being burned,” said Mayor Bill Blair. “… From the town’s perspective, we need to have the service but it doesn’t need to be free.”
Owens said he would see the cost being a flat fee with increases for pickups over a certain amount, such as 2 or 4 cubic yards. Vukelich said he would look into comparable rates.
Alderwoman Lisa Weeks said the topic is also an educational issue, recommending a trashcan sticker listing what items cannot be thrown away. She said many people do not know you cannot dispose of yard debris in the trash.
The board also questioned the low cost of the parks and recreation department’s fees for the afterschool program, at $85 per week. The program is limited to 25 children. Katie Ryan, parks and recreation program supervisor, and Owens will bring percentage-based budget estimates and more afterschool options back to the board.
The next budget workshop will be held Tuesday, April 29, at 5 p.m. During the meeting, the board will look into town recycling, vegetative yard debris fees and the list of items to revisit, also digging deeper into the water and sewer budget. There will also be a special board meeting Wednesday, April 30, at 5 p.m., focusing on future town water needs.