MHC budget talks

The Morehead City Council will meet at 10 a.m. Monday in the municipal building at 202 S. 8th St. for a special meeting to kick off budget talks for fiscal year 2020-21. (Elise Clouser photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — The city council will hold a special meeting Monday morning to kick off the budget planning season for fiscal year 2020-21.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. in the council chambers of the municipal building at 202 S. 8th St. The council will also hold a closed session to consult with the city attorney immediately following the budget meeting.

Even though 2020 has just begun, it is time for local governments to begin planning for the upcoming fiscal year beginning Wednesday, July 1. The budget kick-off meeting will give council members the opportunity to discuss their priorities for the upcoming fiscal year, from capital projects to long-term goals.

The city raised property taxes by 3 cents in fiscal year 2019-20, bringing the tax rate to 38 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Based on talks during last year’s budget planning season, another tax increase may be on tap for the upcoming year.

City Manager Ryan Eggleston originally recommended a 5-cent tax increase last year, but the council pushed for a less drastic jump. Some council members, including George Ballou and former Councilman Harvey Walker, opposed the increase altogether, arguing it would be a burden on residents who were still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which occurred in 2018.

Mr. Eggleston said last year though city was in good financial standing, the tax increase was necessary to fund a number of major capital projects coming down the pipeline, such as the new city hall construction and department needs like new police patrol vehicles and a ladder truck for the fire department. The city put the majority of capital projects on hold in fiscal year 2019-20 in order to build up its reserves and develop a five-year capital improvement plan.

Morehead City Mayor Jerry Jones ultimately had to break a 2-2 tie, with Councilman Bill Taylor absent from the vote, to approve the budget with the 3-cent tax increase last year. The current fiscal year budget totals more than $25 million.

After Monday’s kick-off budget meeting, there is a budget planning retreat scheduled for Friday, Feb. 21, during which the city council and department heads will discuss budget priorities at greater length with Mr. Eggleston. The manager will then work with Finance Director Jewel Lasater on developing the budget, a process that takes several months to complete.

There are budget workshops scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, Tuesday, May 12 and Tuesday, May 19. The council may also meet for another workshop Tuesday, June 2 if necessary. A public hearing for adoption of the fiscal year 2020-21 budget is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9.

All budget workshop meetings, including Monday’s kick off meeting, are open to the public.

 

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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