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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Tough Budget Year Coming; Get Involved; Be Vocal

Editorial: Tough Budget Year Coming; Get Involved; Be Vocal

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

If you're concerned about the "fiscal cliff" and how the Democrat's and Republican's are handling negotiations on just how much more will be deducted from your paycheck starting next year; and more in the coming years with Obamacare, you'll also not want to lose sight of local budgeting.
You know, property taxes, water and sewer rates, and how much you pay for garbage and recycling. Not to mention your electric bill and homeowners insurance.
It's almost overwhelming but necessary to attempt some level of forecasting to at least get a partial picture of how to adjust and plan your personal budget.
While the Town of Kure Beach raised their property tax rate last year a few cents to cover projects and expenditures, the Town of Carolina Beach actually tightened the budgetary belt. Padding of the budget was trimmed, positions not filled (some eliminated through attrition) and all with the understanding the reduction was likely not sustainable for the future.
Therefore, the Town of Carolina Beach has a good chance of being forced to raise taxes for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. 
If they want to fund a capital improvement plan for water, sewer, an Aquatic Center (really large pool) and other improvements, they'll have to find the revenues to pay the annual debt service.
The Town Council is requesting information to author a capital improvement plan. That's a good idea. They can ask department heads to lay out all of their needs, prioritize, print, bind and sit the document in the lobby at Town Hall.
That's all fine and dandy, but residents don't want to hear, for the fifth or sixth year in a row, about a three million gallon water storage tank on Cape Fear Blvd that needs replacing because it's older than dirt and really in poor condition. Actually, rusted and the roof (cracked) is held up by stacked brick supports (Yikes!).
Expensive accident waiting to happen.
The Council will have to come up with a long-term revenue source to fund beach nourishment and maintenance dredging for the Carolina Beach Inlet.
Both are vitally important to our tourism based economy which in turn helps offset the cost to taxpayers for their local government.
If federal funding completely disappears, and that's become more and more likely in recent years, the Town will likely have to seek state permission to levy a sales tax or raise the property tax rate to build a fund to cover those vital projects.
There are many other examples of potential scenarios that lead to increased cost of living for citizens.
2013 will be an all important time to watch and communicate with your local elected leaders. And in turn, most important for those leaders to communicate with the citizens.
We will have two short-term seats on the Council once Council appoints two people to fill the vacant Mayor's seat and one council seat.
Whoever those appointees will be, they will be cast into one of the toughest budget planning years in recent history.
Not to mention there's an election coming up in November 2013. Plus, there will be an interim Town Manager at the helm during the budget planning process while at the same time the Council will be trying to recruit a new manager.
This is not to paint an end-of-the-world picture of Carolina Beach government and cost to taxpayers, but the only real treatment to prevent a terminal fiscal illness is for the taxpayers to do one simple thing: Pay attention!
In 2014 you don't want to find yourself complaining about what your leaders did when you could have joined with other taxpayers and influenced your elected officials budget decisions.
This isn't a groundbreaking editorial topic. Don't be that person that's surprised when opening a tax bill.
Get involved. Get informed.  Maybe you'll succeed or maybe it will only be half as bad as it could have been. At least you'll feel better and have a better understanding of who to vote for in November 2013.