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BY LAURA LEWIS
SUNSET BEACH—In trying economic times, the town of Sunset Beach is holding its own and in one instance doing better than last year.
Town finance director Donna Rogers, speaking at the Sunset Beach Town Council meeting Monday night, said the town’s local-option sales tax is 26 percent higher in the first quarter than last year, while accommodations tax is a “little less than 1 percent” higher than the previous fiscal year.
She said local-option proceeds are expected to go down in the next couple of months due to trickle-down.
“We’re hoping by the end of spring we’ll see enough return,” she said.
Building permits also are down 52 percent, but town staff is anticipating they will “start jumping back up” once the financial downturn is over, Rogers said.
To add to town coffers, the town also is expecting to receive a $25,000 reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We are watching the numbers very carefully,” Rogers said.
After some debate, council voted 4-1 in favor of beefing up life insurance for town employees, which will cost a total of $1,900 for the second half of the current fiscal year effective Jan. 1 and provide almost double for all employees what it does now. The current coverage is a year’s salary not to exceed $50,000.
Councilman Ron Watts, who cast the dissenting vote, said he thought the town should wait and plan a change for next year’s budget.
Councilman Len Steiner said they should go ahead and approve the “bump” for January.
“I don’t think our employees should be that exposed, quite frankly,” Steiner said.
On another matter, Sunset Beach Police Chief Lisa Massey urged residents not to put checks in their outgoing mail following a recent spate of mail thefts reported in Sea Trail. She advised residents to take any checks they need to send and mail them at the post office.
Mayor Ronald Klein further advised residents to mail any checks from inside the post office rather than placing them in an outside box.
Council also approved scheduling public hearings for their Dec. 1 meeting for a special sign district, an amendment for off-street parking requirements and a fence ordinance amendment.
Steiner and fellow councilman Wilson Sherrill questioned some of the parking requirements.
“I think you’ve gone too far with some of these items,” said Steiner.
Sherrill questioned why there is a need for parking for ATM machines and utility substations.