5/10/22: TOWN MANAGER RECOMMENDS $8.7 MILLION FY 2022-23 BUDGET WITH NO TAX INCREASES; PLUS REACTION TO THE TOWN COUNCIL’S REACTION TO CUT-THROUGH TRAFFIC MITIGATION. (New Recycling Day Starting in June)

Town Manager Cliff Ogburn last week filed a recommended fiscal year 2022-23 budget for Southern Shores of $8,706,138, which does not include an increase in general property or beach nourishment taxes.

Mr. Ogburn’s FY 2022-23 budget shows a shortfall between revenues and expenditures of $312,671, which he proposes to make up by appropriating that amount from the Town’s Unassigned Fund Balance, not by raising taxes.

Although the Town’s Unassigned or “Undesignated” Fund Balance (UFB) is designed to be used for emergency expenses and capital projects, not for annual operating expenses, it has been tapped repeatedly to balance the budget. Last year the Town transferred $1,270,519 from the UFB to the budget, $750,000 of it to be used for beach nourishment debt.

The last accounting of the UFB occurred in 2021 and showed a balance of $5.189 million.

The FY 2022-23 budget is the second largest budget ever proposed by a Southern Shores Town Manager and the largest budget ever recommended for general fund operating expenses. The overall increase in operating fund expenses since the FY 21-22 budget is 7 percent. (The FY 2021-22 budget bottom line was $115,152 higher.)

Proposed operating expenses for all of the Town’s departments, except Public Works, have increased since last fiscal year, as follows:

The FY 2022-23 expenses that Mr. Ogburn recommends for the Administration Department have increased 10 percent; the Planning and Code Enforcement Dept.’s expenses have increased 28 percent; and the Streets, Bridges, and Canals budget has increased 11 percent.

Expenses of the other Town departments (all of which are listed below) have increased by from 3 to 5 percent, except Public Works, whose expenses have declined by 1 percent.  (See p. 9 of the proposed budget.)  

The projected expenses in the next fiscal year are:

*Administration Dept.: $1,204,812 (Salaries and benefits account for $634,087, operating costs for the remaining $570,725.)

*Planning and Code Enforcement Dept.: $416,977 (Salaries and benefits account for $315,827, operating costs for $101,150.)

*Police Dept.: $2,095.491 (Salaries and benefits account for $1,612,092, operating costs for the remaining $483,399.)

*Streets, Bridges, and Canals: $2,281, 164 (This sum includes $1 million for the first year of a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan that is designed to maintain street pavement; and $1,202,939 for payment of the beach nourishment debt. The Public Works Dept. administers this budget.)

*Public Works Dept.: $619,896 (Salaries and benefits account for $435,035 and operating expenses for $184,861.)

*Sanitation Services: $879,555 (These expenses cover solid waste disposal, a landfill tipping fee (of $250,000!), and recycling, limb and branch, and large item collections.

*Fire Contracted Service: $1,004,243 (The SSVFD is a non-profit corporation. The Town pays SSVFD $665,223 for contracted fire protection and $314,020 for the construction debt on its new fire station. The Town agreed to pay a debt of $5,419,223 over 25 years at 3.71 percent interest. This is the third year of the loan.)

*Ocean Rescue Contracted Service: $184,000

*Capital Reserve Fund transfer for canals: $20,000

LAND USE PLAN UPDATE: We are pleased to see that the Town Manager has recommended spending $80,000, itemized in the Planning and Code Enforcement Dept. budget, to update the current Land Use Plan, which was adopted in 2012, but is based on 2005 data. The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission declined to certify the plan when the then-Town Manager submitted it because of inadequacies, which were not quickly addressed, hence the time gap between data collection and certification.

Had a post-election reconstituted three-person majority on a previous Town Council not reversed itself in 2018 on a budgetary appropriation for an updated LUP, this essential process/plan would already have been done—at half the cost.   

Today’s Southern Shores is radically different from the Southern Shores of 2005, which did not have cut-through traffic, Airbnb rentals, houses on 50-foot-wide lots, “minihotels,” and a beach nourishment project. According to Mr. Ogburn’s budget report, the year-round population of Southern Shores in 2000 was 2,201; in 2020, it was 3,054.

The Town Council will meet at 9 a.m. next Tuesday, May 17, in the SSVFD fire station on South Dogwood Trail for a budget workshop. A public hearing on the budget will be held during the Council’s June 7 regular meeting. Under state law, the Town Council must approve a FY 2022-23 budget by June 30.

You may access the recommended budget at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5w8yu0ummia1851/TM%20BUDGET%20FY%2022-23%2020220503111047373.pdf?dl=0

TRAFFIC MITIGATION THIS SUMMER

We are still reeling from watching the Town Council’s 27-minute consideration of Mr. Ogburn’s traffic mitigation plan at last Tuesday’s meeting. We were unable to attend the meeting, so we had to catch up belatedly by videotape—and then we had to take a few days to cool off and some more time to do research.

(For background on the plan, see The Beacon, 4/27/22 and 4/29/22.)

You would be forgiven if, after viewing the 27-minute segment, which begins at the 45-minute mark of the meeting videotape, you concluded that none of the five Town Council members—four elected and one appointed—actually lives in Southern Shores. Certainly, none seemed very interested or enthusiastic about helping residents plagued by cut-through traffic.

Chicahauk homeowner Mark Batenic, who was appointed in January to complete Mayor Elizabeth Morey’s unexpired term on the Town Council, actually asked: “What happens if we do nothing?”

As of this writing, Mr. Ogburn has authority to do what he did last summer with “closing” residential roads in the dunes to “local traffic only” in a northbound direction, using the same type of barrier (see photo at top) that he used a year ago. He also may decide to close both lanes of Hickory Trail on Saturdays at its intersection with East Dogwood Trail. Councilwoman Paula Sherlock discouraged the Friday-afternoon-to-Monday-morning closure of Hickory that Mr. Ogburn proposed.

The Town Council easily dismissed closing outlets from Sea Oats Trail, Eleventh Avenue, Hillcrest Drive, and Hickory Trail on to Duck Road–in what members were calling “cul de sacs”–and rejected the closure of Ocean Boulevard at the cell tower/Duck Road split.

No other cut-through traffic prevention measures on the roads are being contemplated, just public relations and marketing designed to persuade vacationers traveling to the northern beaches to stay on U.S. 158 and N.C. Hwy. 12.

We will expound upon our analysis later in the week in an editorial concerning the Council’s comments and actions at its meeting. We had to do some homework first.

In the meantime, we urge you to view the 27 minutes at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tyu9o67ikU.

NEW RECYCLING DAY STARTING IN JUNE

The Town recycling pick-up day will become Friday, starting June 3. The last Wednesday pickup will be May 25.

Friday trash collection will start June 3 and continue until Labor Day weekend. There will be no change in the Monday trash pickup.

MAY 17 PRIMARY ELECTION

The polls for the May 17 primary election will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Southern Shores voters will vote in the Pitts Center, not the Kitty Hawk Elementary School.

Early voting continues this week, from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. through Friday, and then Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall  

(For background, see The Beacon, 5/2/22.)

Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 5/10/22

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