A 2 percent employee pay increase, which can be used for a merit increase, bonus or cost of living adjustment and totals slightly more than $79,300, will be included in the proposed 2014-15 Wrightsville Beach budget.
The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen came to a consensus after discussing percentage options during the budget workshop Tuesday, April 29.
Town manager Tim Owens recommended a combination of cost of living (COLA) and merit-based raises, but board members were hesitant about implementing COLA raises.
Alderwoman Lisa Weeks suggested a 1 percent merit raise to begin, then revisiting pay raises after the parking season in the fall.
“The recruiting is getting harder,” fire chief Frank Smith said about attracting and retaining town employees. “The retention is getting harder.”
Mike Vukelich, public works director, agreed.
Facing daunting, multi-million dollar water and sewer infrastructure costs, the board was reluctant to fund an officer retention program initiative proposed by police chief Dan House. The project would have assigned police officers a vehicle, incentivizing them to stay employed in town.
“It’s basically a whole new project, a whole new plan, a whole new direction,” Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills said. “I’m just not sure if I feel comfortable.”
All other board members agreed.
Police chief Dan House proposed purchasing used cars, instead of new vehicles, for the program. The insurance for the vehicles would be $350 per used vehicle and $400 per new vehicle.
“If we didn’t have to talk about water and sewer, this would be a lot easier,” Mayor Bill Blair said.
Alderman Hank Miller said the program’s benefit in other towns often comes from officers living in the town, which is not the case in Wrightsville Beach.
“It’s a good enough idea to keep active,” Blair said, requesting House to bring back the program in the future. “…It’s an innovative way.”
The board expressed interest in erecting a shower facility for public works employees, but wants to see the cost decrease from the estimated $40,000 figure during a future workshop.
While no tax increases are included in the proposed -2014-15 budget, the aldermen are still looking into raising certain parks and recreation fees and charging for all debris pickups.
The proposed budget is currently projected for $10.35 million in the general fund and $2.29 million in the water and sewer fund.
There is $5.2 million in the fund balance, or reserves. Owens moved $300,000 from the fund balance in the proposed budget to balance the numbers.
The 2014-15 budget is projected $229,000 less than the 2013-14 budget, which totals $10.58 million.
The 2014-15 budget includes a $307,000 increase in parking meter revenue, up to $2.09 million. Ad valorem taxes are estimated to generate $3.24 million in revenue.
During the next budget workshop, tentatively scheduled for May 5, board members will receive an updated list of Capital Improvement Program items and all other items that are not fully funded.