By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on June 11, 2021
After dealing with the wildcard of the COVID-19 pandemic impacting last year’s budgets, Dare County’s municipalities have been able to develop their fiscal year 2021-2022 spending plans with less uncertainty this year. All six towns have either adopted budgets, or are set to by the end of June, for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
All the budgets project an increase in spending over the previous year — ranging from about 8% in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills to about 21% in Duck and Nags Head. In three of the towns, there is no increase in the tax rate while three others have increased it to varying degrees.
In Duck, the $13.9 million budget reflects a 21.4 percent increase over the previous year’s spending plan and carries a tax levy of 22 cents per $100 of assessed value – a slight increase of $0.0236 over last year’s tax rate. Current MSD tax rates remain the same at $0.1296 for MSD-A and $0.285 for MSD-B.
The budget reflects the addition of five new staff positions and increasing a part-time staff member to full time – meaning this year’s personnel costs will see a 149 percent increase over last year’s. The newly created positions include converting a part-time maintenance technician to full-time, two new police officers and two firefighters/EMTs. Also included in the budget is a new planner position in the Community Development Department.
According to Duck Town Manager Drew Havens’ budget message, the two additional full-time police officers will increase police officer safety by providing sufficient patrol personnel to ensure that no less than two police officers are on duty at any time. “Two officer coverage was only achieved fifty-eight percent of the time in 2020,” he stated.
With the addition of two firefighters, the fire department will be able to maintain a minimum of three firefighters on duty around the clock. “This allows for an immediate response to all calls for service, decreases response times, and provides for consistent, qualified personnel with all-hazards capabilities,” according to Havens.
Southern Shores saw a 17.8% increase in its $8.82 million spending plan, up from $7.49 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year. According to Town Manager Cliff Ogburn, the town wide tax rate was increased from 19.58 cents to 23.58 cents per $100 of assessed value. With the town set to embark on its first major beach nourishment project next year, the money from the 4-cent increase will go toward paying beach nourishment debt.
Two new Municipal Service Districts (MSD) were also formed, MSD 1 being taxed an additional 10.15 cents per $100 of assessed value and MSD 2 an additional 3 cents to help pay for sand pumping. Other highlights of the Southern Shores budget include the funding of $1.123 million for street improvements, and the first full year of debt payment for the municipality’s new fire station.
Kitty Hawk’s 2021-22 spending plan represents an 8.8% increase over the previous year, jumping from $9.3 million during the 2020-2021 fiscal year to $10.2 million this coming year. This budget, according to Town Manager Andy Stewart’s budget message, includes a 4 percent increase in revenue over last year. “The increase,” Stewart explained, “can largely be attributed to budgeting only 50 percent of the historical collection of occupancy and sales tax in the 2020-2021 budget as a result of the uncertainty related to the pandemic.”
There is no increase in the Kitty Hawk tax rate of 30 cents per $100 of assessed value, with 3.5 cents of that going toward beach nourishment. Properties in the town’s Municipal Service District will continue to pay an additional 10 cents per $100 of assessed value to contribute to the town’s sand pumping efforts.
The budget includes $3.5 million — with $1.5 million to be financed and the remainder coming from the Capital Reserve Fund — for the proposed construction of a new police department and fire/EMS substation along U.S. 158. Stewart noted that construction is expected to begin this year and Dare County has agreed to pay its portion for the substation for EMS operations.
In the neighboring town of Kill Devil Hills, the municipal budget of $21.5 million is 7.9 percent higher than the current $19.9 million, but holds the line on ad valorem taxes set at 32 cents per $100 of assessed value. Town Manager Debbie Diaz stated in her budget message that because of the unanticipated increase in occupancy and sales tax during 2020, the town is in a position to include projects in the coming year budget that were removed from last year’s spending plan.
A number of fleet replacements are on tap in this year’s budget, including five police vehicles, two residential garbage trucks and one commercial garbage truck. Street improvements slated for this year include W. Third Street from U.S. 158 to Seminole Street; S. Seminole Street; U.S. 158 drainage from W. Fourth Street to W. Third Street; and the W. Third Street sidewalk extension to Bay Drive.
To the south, Nags Head’s general fund budget totals $26.4 million, a 21% over the current budget of $21.9 million. The upcoming budget includes a two-cent tax increase plus a $.025 cent tax for beach nourishment, for a total rate of 28.75 cents per $100 valuation. The Municipal Service Districts 1 and 2 continue paying the current 14.3 cents per $100 of assessed value for beach nourishment. MSD 3 (which includes MSD 1) and 6 will chip in 29.25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation and MSD 4 (which includes MSD 2) will pay 29.75 cents.
To date, compared to the prior year, Nags Head’s occupancy tax is up by 32 percent, sales tax is up by 19 percent, and land transfer tax is up by 105 percent.
According to Interim Town Manager Andy Garman, the budget includes fully funding the town’s equipment replacement schedule. It also fully funds the capital improvement plan which includes maintenance of key assets including streets, storm water, waterlines, beach accesses, vehicles and equipment as well as implementing the public works master plan.
Manteo’s fiscal year 2021-2022 budget of $6.6 million reflects a 17.1% percent increase over the current one and maintains last year’s tax rate of 34.5 cents per $100 of assessed value. The spending plan includes an appropriation of $1.6 million from the undesignated fund balance which, among other projects, will be used for phase 2 of the Town Common project, improvements to the Davis Lot at the Public Works Department, a replacement vehicle in the Planning Department, a replacement vehicle in the Police Department, two vehicles in the Public Works Department.
In his budget message, Town Manager James Ayres also indicated that the budget included funding for planning and engineering services for a proposed affordable housing pilot project.