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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Budget Forecast Looks Positive; Be Careful Around The Pool...

Editorial: Budget Forecast Looks Positive; Be Careful Around The Pool...

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council met last week to discuss the budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. The outlook is very positive. The proposed budget includes no property tax increase, no water, sewer, trash or storm water fee increases and raises for employees.
For Freeman Park revenues from daily and annual passes, Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell is projecting $350,000 going to a storm damage prevention fund to help fund beach nourishment.
Mayor Lewis said the Town lowered the property tax rate last year when they set it below the revenue neutral mark following the countywide property revaluation. He said the Town collected between five and six hundred thousand dollars less and is still in a good financial position to put money away into the reserve fund. He said, "We actually provided a 12% tax decrease."
For the fund balance, or reserve account, the combined total of the general fund and tourism funds reserves this year are  $5,319,740. Shell is projecting next budget year that amount will rise to $5,718,250. A similar increase is projected for the utility fund. There is also a proposal to add two additional fire fighters full time to provide expanded coverage 24 hours a day.
They are also working on securing grant funding to make improvements to the aging wood boardwalk along the beachfront in the downtown area.
This is all great news.
Putting money away for future beach nourishment projects to the tune of $350,000 from Freeman Park revenues helps take a chunk out of the projected $550,000 a year that will be needed to fund future projects should federal and state funding fall short. Perhaps the most monumental issue facing the Town in the the next 24 months is how to fund an estimated $15 million dollar three phase project to complete water and sewer improvements.
The fiscal forecast looks great now, let's just hope the Town can maintain that momentum long-term and focus priority on necessary projects rather than recreational projects such as a community pool.
While an eight lane community pool is a great idea and debatably may pay for itself with user fees, its yet another project on a board full of projects that needs to be prioritized.
Clean water and sanitary sewer improvements, dredging the lake to mitigate flooding during rain events, funding beach nourishment and inlet dredging, and maintaining basic municipal services are priorities often supported by residents.
Getting grants to fund improvements for parks and the boardwalk area is outstanding. Those grants pay a large part of those bills while the Town matches them with a percentage of funding.
The pool proposal (Referenced on page 2A in several letters) should receive the most scrutiny because there are no upfront grants from state agencies and it will be dependent on whether or not a local government can run a successful business venture. If the users don't pay the bill, the taxpayers will.
Perhaps an exercise in obtaining financing is in order. Take the proposal to a lender and seek a loan based on the existing financial figures (estimated revenues, expenditures, operation, etc) and a business plan.  See if a bank would fund the proposal if a private company rather than government planned it.
Business owners do this every day and have to survive that process because banks have to be comfortable they will get their money back with interest. Some idea that the venture will be successful.
In government, if a venture doesn't succeed, the loan still has to be paid and the shareholders have to, by force of law, pay for it in their property tax rates if success doesn't materialize. True, the loan to the government comes from a bank, but in this case the bank knows the Town has something private businesses don't have; taxing authority. In the case of government, the bank isn't at risk, the taxpayers fill that gap through their property taxes of which the Town has to set high enough to cover all debts.