Swansboro’s budget for 2021-22 reflects the effects of the pandemic shutdown as well as the “hangover” from a string of recent hurricanes, as the total represents a 12 percent decrease from the budget of the current year, 2020-21.
Planning for this fiscal year has been a challenge, according to the budget message from Chris Seaberg, town manager.
“The town is close to completing the final recovery efforts for Hurricane Florence (2018), Hurricane Dorian (2019) and Hurricane Isaias (2020),” Seaberg states in the message. Those storms, especially Florence, have had significant financial impact on the town.
But that is not all: “In March 2020, COVID-19 threw a proverbial curve ball that not many were expecting, nor planning for,” Seaberg said. “This event pushed town staff to limits no one could ever expect, but all have persevered. We continue to battle this pandemic but thankfully vaccinations are being administered. One would hope that we might return to a ‘normal’ routine in the near future. Unfortunately, the town must, once again, attempt to estimate operating revenues still hindered by the pandemic in hopes to provide a viable operating budget for the next fiscal year.”
The 2020-21 amended budget totals $5,403,831, according to Seaberg.
The total budget for 2021-22 amounts to $4,823,689. As proposed, the General Fund totals $4,214,942, the Solid Waste Fund totals $448,321 and the Stormwater Fund totals $160,426.
“As required, all funds within the budget are balanced, and all revenues and expenditures are identified,” Seaberg said.
While the budget maintains the existing property-tax rate of 35 cents per $100 of assessed value, fees have risen.
“This budget does include increases in our Enterprise Funds fees for both Solid Waste and Stormwater to ensure each programs’ viability,” Seaberg said. “Solid Waste fees increased $1.69 per unit per month for the residential services and $2.83 per unit per month for commercial services. Stormwater fees for residential customers were changed to a less-complex $5 per month flat fee versus the previous tier system. While a minimum rate of $5 per month will be required, the commercial stormwater fee schedule remains unchanged.”
Ad Valorem Property Tax and Sales Tax revenue account for a majority – 44 percent – of the General Fund revenue, according to Seaberg. The Ad Valorem tax base is made up of taxes on real property, personal property, public utilities, and motor vehicles.
Swansboro’s total assessed valuation for 2021-22 increased by 5 percent over the current year, to $535,100,000.
“Real property and motor vehicles property values show strong gains, while personal property and public utilities property values remained stagnant,” Seaberg said.
Other key sources of revenue include Permitting and Inspection fees, expected to be $215,000; and Powell Bill revenues expected to be $80,205.
However, in order to avoid an increase in the property-tax rate, the budget will have to draw down the town’s unassigned fund balance, by as much as $250,000. (See related story.)
As of June 30, 2020, the General Fund had a total unassigned fund balance of $2,229,423, which represents 52 percent of the budget. The Local Government Commission recommends the unassigned fund balance be maintained at least 8 percent.
Included in the budget message from Seaberg is a recounting of the Board of Commissioners Goals and Objectives for the 2021-22 Fiscal Year.
• Land Use Plan Implementation into the Unified Development Ordinance
• Continued implementation of action items in the Swansboro Watershed Restoration Plan (2017)
• Determination of the best location and/or improvements for the town’s Emergency Operation Center
• Improve the coordination of N.C. Department of Transportation lighted intersections
• Finalize the 2021 Pay Plan and begin implementation
• Swansboro Visitor’s Center Improvements
• Operational Software Implementation
Update the Parks and Recreation Master Plan
Swansboro will present the budget in an in-person public hearing at the June 28 board of commissioners meeting.
Email Jimmy Williams at email@example.com.
For more on this story, purchase a copy of the June 2, 2021, Tideland News.