ATLANTIC BEACH — Town officials have a balanced budget ready for fiscal 2021-2022, with a 2-cent ad valorem property tax rate increase.
The Atlantic Beach Town Council met Thursday for its regular work session in the town hall meeting room on West Fort Macon Road, with Councilman M.J. Forrest absent.
The council has been meeting at this temporary office space because the former town hall has been demolished, with a new structure under construction in its place at 125 West Fort Macon Road.
The $7 million project is the reason staff is proposing increasing the property tax rate from 18 cents per $100 dollars of assessed value to 20 cents. Town manager David Walker presented the council a summary of the draft 2021-22 budget at the work session, and a public hearing on it is scheduled for the next regular council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, May 24.
“This (tax increase) was anticipated back last October,” Mr. Walker said, “when the council adopted its bond to the (N.C.) Local Government Commission.”
The town hall project has more than doubled the town’s annual debt service payment, according to Mr. Walker. He said the fiscal 2020-21 debt service payment was $279,000, while the budgeted payment for the coming year is $572,000.
Mr. Walker went on to say the tax rate increase is expected to generate an additional $360,000 in revenue. Of this amount, $290,000 is earmarked to go toward paying for the town hall project.
The total draft budget for next fiscal year is $8,977,590, a decrease of $1,204,327 from the current fiscal year’s $10,181,917 budget. The draft budget includes a $7,315,065 general fund, which is $986,935 less than the current year.
“As we’ve gone a year through the pandemic since last March, we haven’t felt the dire effects (to town revenue) we anticipated at the time,” Mr. Walker said. “Based on our state revenues, they’ve remained stable. We expect some slow growth as we enter into the summer and fall months.”
He said the draft budget maintains the current town staff of 56 employees, most of whom are in the police department. It also retains the current level of services, including the dredging program, beach access grant match and stormwater drainage improvement efforts.
In other news at Thursday’s work session, the council discussed creating a new noise ordinance. No action was taken, and Mayor Trace Cooper said a lot of the proposed changes are to “clean up” the existing ordinance.
Police Chief Jeff Harvey said he first proposed noise ordinance changes in December 2019 due to existing regulations lacking a timeframe regarding nuisance noise.
“With the summer coming up, we’re probably going to see a lot of people with cabin fever coming out,” he said. “We’re trying to get a noise ordinance put in to bolster what we’re enforcing at the (police) department.”
The chief said he used Beaufort’s ordinance as a reference for some of his proposed changes. Among them are a 10 p.m. cutoff time on weekdays for outdoor, amplified music and 11 p.m. for weekends.
The existing noise ordinance has remained unchanged for many years. Councilman Rich Johnson was surprised at how long the ordinance has gone without being updated.
“This is embarrassing, to have an ordinance that mentions steam whistles, steam engines, gramophones and victrolas,” he said. “To me we’re talking about barking dogs, boom boxes on the beach, bar music. We don’t have to have a written description of every kind of noise.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.