BEAUFORT — Despite the coronavirus pandemic eating into sales tax revenues this spring March, revenues from certain fees have been rising for areas of Carteret County.
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in restrictions on businesses and – earlier this year – travel. However, in spite of these restrictions, county and municipal officials are reporting a number of non-tax revenue sources, especially those related to property sales and development, are not only remaining strong, but appear to be growing.
Assistant County Manager Eugene Foxworth said county planning officials haven’t seen a decline in requests for building permits for property development since the pandemic began.
“As a whole we’ve had a strong year with stead increases (in development),” Mr. Foxworth said. “In comparing July 2019 vs. July 2020, our department revenues are roughly $20,000 more this year than last for the month.
“In my opinion, while the restrictions caused by the pandemic have affected many segments of our economy negatively, development isn’t one of them,” he continued.
Property sales, and by extension the real estate fees charged by the county, have also been on the rise in recent months.
Carteret County Register of Deeds Karen Hardesty said that from March through Aug. 20, her office collected about $1,464,498.30 in real estate fees, an increase of $134,658.35 over the the same period in 2019.
Municipalities also receive revenue from fees charged to businesses, residents and property owners, including service and utility fees. In Emerald Isle, Town Manager Mat Zapp said most of the revenue from their solid waste, parking, parks and planning fees has remained steady since the pandemic began, except for the membership fees to the parks department, which are down $15,000 for the year.
“Solid waste is $255 per household per year,” Mr. Zapp said. “Permit and inspection fees vary, based on the permit applied. Public parking during the summer season on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays are $10 per car, per day. We also offer annual gym memberships at the community center.”
Mr. Zapp said the town’s solid waste collection program receives about $1.6 million per year, which is reinvested into the collection service and associated tipping fees. Permit and inspection fees generate about $250,000 per year, parking fees about $140,000 per year and membership fees about $63,000 per year.
Mr. Zapp said the pandemic has had “a butterfly effect” on all aspects of local government, some beyond the revenue.
“Public meeting platforms have shifted,” he said, “more functions are available online and an increased volume of people are visiting Emerald Isle. There were a lot less things to do all season; movies, sports games, large events, etc. People were allowed to boat and go to the beach. As a result, Emerald Isle visitor numbers were up.”
Fee revenues haven’t been going up in every Carteret County municipality, however. On the mainland in Beaufort, a report from the town’s finance staff shows fee revenues are down this year from 2019 for the period from March through June.
According to the report, total fee revenues from March to June 2020 came in at $1,593,799.03, in all $74,896.93 less than collected during the same period last year.
Beaufort receives fees for the fire safety inspections, solid waste collection, stormwater drainage, building permits, special events, parking and more. The pandemic has had a more direct effect on some of these revenue streams than others. For example, Beaufort Public Information Officer Rachel Johnson said due to the pandemic, both town events and train depot rentals have been suspended until further notice due to the pandemic.
“Paid parking season was also canceled for this season,” Ms. Johnson said.
The News-Times requested fee revenue information from the town of Morehead City, but did not receive information by presstime.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.