Split Nags Head board scrambles to pass budget
The latest town budget weighs in at $20.9 million, and taxpayers will not see any increases in their rates.
But Commissioner Anna Sadler warned of potentially severe tax increases ahead as Dare County continues its evaluation of property, where oceanfront and soundside homes are expected to lose significant appraisal value.
Resident Richard Murphy was the only person to speak during public comments, and he expressed concerns over the proposed town budget and certain expense items.
Because of Dare County’s method of distributing sales tax revenues, Nags Head will receive a $1.6 million windfall this year as a result of increasing property taxes to pay for their beach nourishment program.
Other towns have now raised their tax rates in order to offset the distribution loss from Nags Head, so by fiscal year 2014, Nags Head will no longer receive the extra county revenue.
Murphy expressed concern over proposals to fund long-term salaries of new and existing employees from a one-time windfall and also questioned the amount of salary increases proposed in the budget.
“Just because you have a windfall doesn’t mean you have to spend it” Murphy told the commissioners.
During discussion on the budget, Mayor Bob Oakes echoed Murphy’s concerns, saying he was in favor of using the windfall for one-time capital expenditures but not-long term salary funding.
Commissioner Renee Cahoon said the budget was “top-heavy in executive positions and jumps in pay grades and steps.”
Commissioner Anna Salder stated the budget was “out of synch,” using temporary funds for long-term payment of salaries.
The only commissioner to speak in favor of the proposed budget was Doug Remaley, who said “we have been passing budgets with too little money for too many things for too long,” a theme he has repeated over the past five years.
Remaley also expressed frustration that Oakes had called him before the meeting and told how the vote was going to come out, questioning why the board even bothered to debate it.
The proposed budget failed by a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Remaley and Susie Walters supporting the budget with Oakes, Cahoon and Sadler voting no.
Town Manager Cliff Ogburn called for a five-minute recess and returned with a new budget. Ogburn eliminated the proposed new positions for a deputy fire chief and a police lieutenant, and agreed to restrict salary/grade increases for the human resources director and senior accountant to 7.5 percent.
A new position of town engineer remained in the budget since the salary will be partially offset by a budget line item currently dedicated to outsourcing engineering work.
Cahoon proposed an amendment to reduce the total salary increases for the human resources director and the project manager to 5 percent.
The Cahoon amended budget passed by a 3-2 vote with Remaley and Sadler dissenting.
In other items, the town agreed to look into ways the public and builders can be educated on the use of fill and managing storm-water runoff. The recent hard rains have led to new complaints about runoff into streets and neighboring yards.
Fire Chief Kevin Zorc announced the 4th of July fireworks celebration, which he called a “cornerstone event” for the town each year. The fireworks will be launched from the end of Nags Head Pier at milepost 11.5 on the Beach Road.
Zorc said that Nags Head police will be directing traffic before and after the event and advised attendees to use the northernmost beach accesses in the town or Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which will be open late on July 4 for the event.
Zorc reminded the public that personal fireworks are illegal. Sadler thanked the town employees who will be working the night of the event as well as Andy and Lovey McCann, who own Nags Head Pier.
If there is inclement weather, the event will be held on July 5.
The McCann’s must close their pier for business before and after the event due to regulations governing fireworks and their proximity to the public.
Cahoon inquired about “mobile billboards,” specifically one truck that travels from Corolla to Manteo with rotating advertisements on four panels around the truck.
Ogburn and Town Attorney John Leidy said they felt the truck violated town ordinances and a notice of violation had been served on the owner. The owner indicated to the town he was going to retain counsel and challenge the notice. Remaley said he felt pursuing the driver “was a waste of town money and resources.”
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