Editorial: Taxes and Fees: Get Informed And Talk To Leaders

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 20 April 2016 04:00

Managing Editor

The Kure Beach Town Council will continue discussions on preparing their budget for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year at a budget workshop set for Friday, April 22, 2016 starting at 9AM.
The Council was presented with various options at a previous budget workshop. Some of those options included raising the property tax rate to cover increased cost for an additional police officer and additional fire fighters due to new regulatory requirements. Also, the Council is discussing how to continue building a fund for future beach nourishment projects.
The Council wants to hear from residents during the budget process. The best way to offer input is to attend their budget workshops and hear the details.
In Carolina Beach, the Council will meet on April 26th, to hold a workshop meeting where they will continue discussion on a proposal to raise water, sewer and storm water rates over five years to fund the sale of Revenue Bonds to fund $57.8 million dollars in infrastructure projects.
The Town of Carolina Beach announced the creation of a rate calculator on their website to educate residents on upcoming water, sewer and storm water rate increases over the next five years.
The calculator was a reality check to many citizens. Actually, frightening is a more accurate description.
The Council discussed this with Cramer at their February meeting and basically agreed they don't like raising rates 10% each year for water and sewer as well as an annual increase for monthly storm water fees. Yet they all basically agreed it's necessary to address aging infrastructure and to improve water quality while continuing to meet the needs of the citizens.
In February Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said, "I'm ok with it. Am I happy? I'm like Leann, no one wants to pay more. We have put it off long enough and I've been working on this now going into my second term on council. These numbers are the numbers. The work needs to be done."
He explained, "We've got to move forward... it is how we communicate and present it to the public and make sure we're getting them the information in a format they can understand. Whether they agree or disagree, I just want to make sure we are pushing information out that they understand this is what we're talking about and here is the cost benefit."
As soon as the rate calculator was made available online last week, many people began contacting Council members expressing their dissatisfaction with double or triple increases over five years.
On April 12th, the Council held their regular monthly meeting and Cramer apologized for an apparent miscommunication between himself and the Council on what the rate increases would actually be over the five year period.
According to the rate calculator, for a household with a 5/8" or 3/4" inch water meter, if there was zero water and sewer use for a month, under the current rate structure and rates, the bill for water, sewer and storm water would be $47.85. In five years the rate (without turning on the tap or flushing a toilet - zero use) would be $76.50. If you include the $18.39 per month fee for trash and recycling pickup, that bill would be $94.89 regardless of whether or not you put anything in the trash or recycling cans.
Now, if you use 4,000 gallons per month, it's currently $58.36 for water, sewer and storm water. ($76.75 including trash/recycling). In five years, it skyrockets to $144.22 (or $162.61 including trash/recycling).
The Council was shocked and expressed concern along with a variety of questions for Cramer at the April 12th, meeting. They agreed to move forward with the Revenue Bond process, but agreed they would need more information before taking a final vote to commit or obligate the Town to selling the Revenue Bonds and locking the Town into a contractual obligation to maintain higher rates to pay off such bond debt.


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