By Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice on June 1, 2020
In the strange setting of a socially distanced Dare County Commissioners meeting, the board on June 1 passed a Fiscal Year 2020-2021 General Fund budget of $107,076,589 – one that reflects the anticipated loss of millions in revenue that is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That compares with an original General Fund budget (the one initially approved by the commissioners) of $108,736,119 for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 and $114,690,038 in Fiscal Year 2018-2019.
The vote came after the commissioners waited several minutes to see if there would be any emails or texts that would constitute the public hearing that was scheduled on the agenda before the vote. (There were no members of the audience in the room.) When no comments surfaced, they moved quickly to approve the budget.
At a meeting last month, County Manager Bobby Outten explained that the new budget would reflect a $4.3 million revenue shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, adding that the losses would be made up through $1.6 million in budget reductions, a $1.9 million reduction in contributions from the General Fund to the Capital Improvement Fund, and the use of an excess of $707,000 from the unassigned fund balance.
The new budget does not include a property tax increase and is revenue neutral on property taxes, meaning the rate decreased from 47 cents to 40.05 cents in a year when the 2020 county-wide revaluation produced an average 26% increase in property values in Dare County.
During the portion of the meeting devoted to the commissioners’ remarks, both Ervin Bateman and Danny Couch made statements that suggested a pretty hardy economic bounce back since the Outer Banks opened to visitors on May 16.
Bateman, who owns the Sugar Creek Seafood restaurant, reported that on May 31, his operation handled 139 orders to go “which is unheard of,” adding that even operating at 50% capacity, the restaurant is up about 10 percent in revenue.
Couch, who represents Hatteras Island on the board of commissioners, stated that for the “last two weeks on Hatteras, we’ve been at capacity with rentals.”