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Carolina Beach Town Manager Talks Budget Process; Fee Proposal

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will hold a budget workshop meeting May 8th, at Town Hall from 8AM to 12 noon.
One item listed in a budget document last week indicated a proposal for a 20% increase in water and sewer fees.
Town Manager Michael Cramer said that was a starting point and only a proposal with regards to how to handle debt service in the water and sewer fund.
Cramer explained Tuesday May 6th, "My intent with this is to go through in general terms the items, talk about highlights for each individual departmental budget, see if there are any questions. If there are questions I didn't cover in the highlights, they can let me know and I can try and give them information or write it down as something I need to address in the budget."
He said, "There's options. The utility fund is the best example. What I threw out there was here is one option; it's 20% right off the bat. Do I think it's reasonable, no. It's one way of meeting our need for funds for debt service. But it doesn't 100% make it easy on everybody. There are seniors on fixed income and yes that impacts strongly but the other option is we have seven million dollars in fund balance in the utility fund. Why not use some of that to offset the cost. Maybe only raise it by ten percent, two percent, whatever we want to do in there and come to some sort of compromise."
He said, "The goal was, we have this funding gap, we have improvements we are making and we have to find the revenue and here are the various options."
Cramer said his goal is to get a sense from the Town Council on what direction should be taken in addressing fees and revenue to fund debt for projects such as the multi-million dollar project to replace aging water and sewer lines in residential areas of Town, replace an ancient three million gallon ground level water storage tank on Cape Fear Blvd and other projects.
Over the years the Town has budgeted a reserve in the water and sewer fund for future infrastructure projects but the breakdown of those reserves isn't clear.
Cramer said he didn't want to make any assumptions and will give the information to Council to seek direction based on their priorities.
A previous budget meeting held April 29th resulted in questions from Mayor Dan Wilcox and Council members about the process and information presented. That meeting resulted in a question and answer session and Cramer's presentation was continued to a future meeting.
He said following that meeting, "I had the opportunity to sit down with each one of the Council members and say, what did you expect, what did you intend. Did you want all of the information upfront or did you want me to give the highlights and then get you the information. With five Council members you probably have five different opinions on how they like to collect their information. I chose a direction that I have to tweak now and that's fine."
He said, "I see next year the budget process going much smoother because we've had time to gel as a group, we will know what each other is thinking about and want for information and I can provide it. I hope that people go out to the website and see the information that's out there."
The Town has published budget documents on their website at for the public to read.
He said following the Thursday May 8th meeting the Council will hold a public hearing at their May 13th, meeting to hear citizen input on the budget. Another workshop meeting is set for May 27th where public and Council input can be discussed.
Cramer said if Council has more concerns or input, he can make changes prior to the June meeting when Council adopts the budget to start July 1.
Cramer said last week the proposal does not include a property tax rate increase.
The Council must adopt a balanced budget by June 30th.