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Troubleshooters: Oak Island budget concerns

READ MORE: Troubleshooters: Oak Island budget concerns
Over the past few weeks, we have been telling you about concerns that residents in Brunswick County have with the Town of Oak Island. Alleged sexual harassment at the police department, lack of access to public documents, and frustration over the town's latest annexation are some of the main complaints. Now, the town's former mayor is worried about the town's skyrocketing budget. Helen Cashwell served as mayor of Oak Island from 2004 to 2005, before handing over the reigns to current mayor Johnie Vereen. She said since then, the town council has gone on a spending spree, building two new fire departments, a new police department, and working on plans to build a new town hall. The price tag for those projects? About $20 million. "Everything that they've done has been huge, not miniscule in amount but huge, all of it adding to the burden,” said Cashwell. If you tack on the $91 million going to build a new sewer system, it is turning into a fairly significant bottom line for tax payers. "Citizens need to be made aware of it. I've always said that I have no illusions. I do not want to be mayor again, I have no political ambitions, all I want to know is that the people are treated fairly,” said the Helen. Mayor Vereen said in the face of skyrocketing building costs, town council decided it made sense to build with the future in mind. "What we did, we designed a certain number of infrastructure buildings, fire departments, city hall, police department, for 30 years into the future, so that we'll never have to spend another nickel here. There is a plan here and I'm as concerned about the taxes as anybody else is because I certainly have to pay my portion also,” said Vereen. There are 10,000 property owners in Oak Island who will have to split the bill. Here is how that breaks down: As we mentioned, there are about $20 million worth of capital projects in the works. If you add in the $91 million for the sewer construction, plus the $79 million in interest it will likely cost to fund that project, the costs are around $190 million. A $2 million grant will make a small dent, but if you divide the remaining $188 million by the 10,000 lots on Oak Island, there will be almost $19,000 per household in taxes and fees. That is above and beyond the taxes Oak Islanders are already paying. Taxpayers will have about 25 years to repay that amount, but it is still a hefty tax burden. Mayor Vereen said, "There's going to be a gradual increase, and that's what I expect to happen here. We're preempting a concern before it's actually happened. We haven't seen the final amount on the tax burden.” Some of the first bills will come due next year, as residents are charged $4,200 per household to hook on to the sewer system. If you cannot pay all at once, you can pay in installments over 10 years, but you will also have to pay interest if you choose that option.

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