PINE KNOLL SHORES — Town officials continue to work on the budget proposals, with commissioners now supporting a 1-cent property tax rate increase instead of a 2-cent hike.
The board of commissioners met online for its regular board meeting May 13. The late Mayor Ken Jones was present for the meeting. Mayor Jones unexpectedly died May 14.
During the meeting, the board discussed the draft fiscal year 2020-2021 town budget. After deliberation, the board endorsed, 3-2 with commissioners Alicia Durham and Larry Corsello opposed, an option from town staff that includes the following budgetary action:
- Increase the ad valorem property tax rate from 19.7 cents per $100 of property value to 20.7 cents.
- Enact town staff salary increases recommended by a human resources study.
- Use town reserve funds for capital projects with costs under $100,000.
- Budgeting for financing half the cost for phase two of the town stormwater drainage project.
- Use Federal Emergency Management Agency excess funds from the town’s beach nourishment project to fund roof repairs to the public safety building and a stormwater drainage pump.
- Use $166,600 in reserve funds to balance the budget.
The draft budget isn’t complete yet. The board will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday for further budget discussion.
Mr. Corsello opposed endorsing the option for several reasons. Among these were the proposed tax rate increase and the plan to budget for projects that could be paid for with FEMA funds by waiting to receive them.
“I don’t think we need to increase taxes,” Mr. Corsello said. “I’d wait on this stormwater (project) until we find out about this money with the Iron Steamer.”
Mr. Corsello was referring to a FEMA-approved project for repairs to the Iron Steamer public beach access seawall. Town Finance Officer Officials have requested a change of scope on the project to replace it with the phase two project and are awaiting FEMA’s decision.
At least two residents are eager to see phase two move forward. During public comment, the mayor read comments submitted by Crystal Coast Country Club President John Ferguson and resident Dan Crase, both of whom urged the board not to delay the project.
Ms. Durham, meanwhile, seemed to want to avoid using reserve funds to pay for operating expenses.
“You can’t operate a business out of your savings,” she said.
Commissioner Bill Knecht said when town staff proposed a tax rate increase in 2019, the board decided against it.
“Nobody likes tax increases,” he said, “but 1 cent is a drop in the bucket over the years.”
Town Manager Brian Kramer said the board hasn’t raised the property tax rate since 2015, and they’ve raised the tax rate twice in the last 12 years.
Meanwhile, the staff salary increases are proposed in order to improve retention, particularly in the police and fire/EMS departments. Mr. Kramer said he thinks all the proposed salary levels are “fair market value.”
“I think it’s important we stand by what we said last July,” he said, “that we want to maintain the best staff for Pine Knoll Shores.”
Mayor Jones said during meeting he didn’t want Pine Knoll Shores “to be a training base for the rest of the county or region.”
The board also went into closed session to discuss personnel matters. Afterward, the board came back into open session and unanimously awarded Mr. Kramer a $12,000 raise and extended his contract for a year.
In other news at the meeting, the board unanimously suspended paid parking for the 2020 summer tourism season. Mr. Kramer recommended suspending paid parking due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The following also occurred during Wednesday’s meeting:
- During his manager’s report, Mr. Kramer informed the board beach vegetation for oceanfront beach nourishment work is “forthcoming.” Sand placement from the recent beach nourishment project is complete.
- Mr. Kramer informed the board town staff plans to repave the parking lot of the Iron Steamer public beach access in June.
- Mr. Kramer informed the board the emergency beach access on the west end of town has been installed. The final coast was $20,125.
- Ms. Anderson informed the board there have been 23 Pine Knoll Shores appeals filed of property revaluation from the Carteret County Tax Office’s revaluation, which was released in April. Of these appeals, 20 have been settled, two are still being process and one has been sent to the County Board of Equalization and Review. The total value of these lots is $828,000, which has been withheld from being used in budgetary calculations pending appeal decisions.
- The board unanimously approved the meeting’s consent agenda, which included minutes from the March 11, March 25 and April 29 meetings.
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-723-7353, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.