Letter To Editor: $1,000,000 Hole In The Budget

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 16 October 2019 23:46

Dear Editor,
I have recently spent time reviewing our town budget and found that currently, our second highest source of income--after property taxes--is Freeman Park. As most of you know, starting on June 21st, 2019, the Town had to begin limiting park access due to erosion. As of today, only 10 of park’s 22 zones are open and only 1 of 3 campsite zones are available for use--which means more than half of Freeman Park, including the inlet access for vehicles, is closed.

You may also recall June’s Town budget process. At the time the budget was created and adopted, the town manager and Council did not foresee or forecast how much the budget would be affected by the changes at Freeman Park. As such, the 2019/20 budget shows an expected income of around $1.9 million--the same as last year--while the actual income from 2018 was $400,000+ less than expected. Considering that more than half the park is closed, a more realistic expectation for its actual income this budget year is likely to be about half of last year's income or $700,000.

There is no doubt that the loss of income from Freeman Park will have a huge impact on our town and its budget, and I believe Council must actively look for ways to reduce spending to make up for what will likely be a million-dollar loss. I think of it like this: if my wife and I were planning a big vacation or looking at buying a new car, then one or both of us lost our jobs, we wouldn’t move forward with those plans--it’s just common sense!

If the Park’s situation remains static until July 2020, the town will have to make up this difference--and they’ll likely have to raise property taxes by 20% to account for the Freeman Park income shortfall. In hard numbers, this means you could expect a property worth $350,000 to see an increase in taxes of around $175 next year--in addition to the $70 increase levied this year!

The town is on the path to spend the entire $1.9 million taxpayer dollars budgeted for 2019/20 UNLESS someone speaks up--and that someone is us. So, what should we as taxpayers ask of our Council?

1. Email or call Council and ask them to have town management provide a modified budget to remove budget expenditures that are not absolutely required this year. Without changes to the current budget, our general fund reserves could become dangerously low. Tell Council that as hard as it is, we must identify some of the 'nice to have' projects in the current budget and remove them.

2. Specifically, come to the town council meeting on November 12th at 6:30PM and tell them to start saving money by removing the Clarendon Multi-Use Path (MUP) from the current budget. Council is on the verge of approval to spend a minimum of $680,000 on the Clarendon MUP with 80% coming back to the town through a grant after the project is complete. This is a perfect opportunity for the town to save hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in the budget shortfall.

If you are concerned with the very real potential of property tax increases, please urge Council to start spending responsibly--let town council know you do NOT want to spend funds on a costly, unnecessary MUP on Clarendon Blvd.

Ricky Niec
Carolina Beach, NC

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