Town approves budget with no tax, water or sewer increases

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By Kathryn Jacewicz, Staff writer

OCEAN ISLE BEACH—Commissioners approved the town budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, voting not to increase tax rates, water or sewer services in Ocean Isle Beach.

The budget includes a general fund of $4,073,769; a water and sewer fund of $2,531,653; and other funds totaling $2,251,601.

“This was a tough, tough year. A tough budget,” commissioner Dean Walters said. “I’m not happy with it.”

The budget reflects the state of the economy, Walters said. This year’s general budget is nearly a half-million dollars less than the budget last fiscal year. The town is also expecting a loss of nearly 20 percent in accommodations tax, which Walters said is a “major part of our income.”

The town will receive about $20,000 less from the county in fire fees, while other costs, like workman’s compensation and insurance for town employees, have risen in some cases more than 20 percent.

Although there was no increase in taxes or services, Walters said there were cuts made to nearly every department, and the budget is about as lean as it could be. The one area that was not reduced—and will not be touched—is set aside for beach renourishment.

“We’re not going to touch things like beach renourishment,” Walters said. “That’s still the golden egg.”

The town has more than $300,000 set aside for the local match of the next renourishment but also has to put money up front for the state’s portion, which is nearly $2 million. Town administrator Daisy Ivey said funds are included in the state’s budget, but it has not yet been approved. The town does have money available and would be reimbursed later on.

“I don’t recall our state has ever been in this deficit before,” commissioner Betty Williamson said.

“We really don’t have a choice,” commissioner C.D. Blythe added.

Williamson credited property owners for being a great help during a hard financial time. The town collected more than 99 percent of taxes.

“We need to thank the property owners for paying their taxes so well this year,” she said.