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ToOI Budget

We could talk about me or we could talk about the $30M ToOI proposed budget...

The Town Manager's proposed FY2011 ToOI Budget at nearly $30M is the largest budget in the Town's history before adding in another $1M required for new wastewater system treatment and collection per the FFE. This proposed budget is a 10% plus increase of the current year approved budget, a 23% plus increase over the estimated current year actual budget, and double the budget from just 5 years ago.

This proposed budget includes an 18% property tax rate increase and a 23% property tax revenue increase over the approved budget and a 50% increase over the property tax revenue from just 5 years ago. This proposed budget includes $10.9M in debt service payments and $10.1M plus in salaries and benefits for 150 full time and 50 part time employees plus an unknown number of new wastewater system employees over two thirds of the proposed budget.

Assuming roughly 15,000 revenue paying residents, property owners, and businesses in Town the average amount confiscated by the Town from them is $2000, up from $1000 just 5 years ago.

How many residents and property owners cannot or will not be able to afford ANY health insurance let alone the Cadillac plan they provide the Towns employees. How many will have their homes foreclosed or be forced into bankruptcy? It is more than 150 for sure. This is neither a lean budget nor a budget of shared sacrifice. The Town of Oak Island is not a job bank for the politically connected and the Towns residents and property owner considerations are paramount to all of the Town's officials and employees.

Tonight I present the Lesser Long Beach Government in Exile Alternative Budget. Alternative budget expenses are $6M less than the proposed budget and include the $1M for the new wastewater system operation. This is a 20% reduction in the proposed budget expenses and a 33% cut in other than debt service expenses.

This budget will require significant cuts in other than minimum essential Town services. The service reductions will require a corresponding 33% reduction of roughly 50 Town employees and a significant reduction in remaining employee benefits. Nearly every department will have to participate in the expense reductions.

The alternate budget proposes a Town property tax rate of 5 cents resulting in a 70% reduction in property tax revenue saving the Towns residents and property owners $4.8M. The extra $1.2M in expense reductions over revenue reductions will be used to increase the Town fund balance for use in emergencies in what is expected to be a busy tropical storm season.

The alternate budget improves the Town utility revenue approach to make it more straightforward and equitable. There is no change in the new wastewater system assessment. The Sewer District Fee is changed into four districts with each district paying its own utility capital expenses for the year.

The new wastewater system area SDF will be based on this years estimated $7.9M debt service minus the expected $6.1M assessment revenue divided by roughly 10,000 directly affected property owners resulting in an annual fee of $180 which is more equitable than current scheme of spreading it over just 8,000 utility customers including 1,000 existing wastewater area customers who have already paid the capital costs for their system.

The other proposed SDFs are the existing wastewater area SDF with a fee of $30 to cover existing wastewater system debt service, the SBSD SDF with a fee of $0 and the new bridge corridor SDF with a fee of $100 to begin building a fund to help pay for future wastewater service in that area.

The proposed total water and wastewater utility fees will be lowered to at most an average of less than $50 per month. The fee will use a non volume base fee for all customers to cover fixed O&M costs and a progressive volume based rate to cover costs based on actual water and wastewater flow to encourage water conservation.

The alternate budget proposes changes to the Town wastewater collection system to allow all wastewater from the Island including Caswell Beach to be sent to the County treatment plant for the next several years based on the 201 FP flow estimates allowing the Town to shut down it's treatment plant saving hundreds of thousands in Town expenses since the FFE estimates County treatment costs are half of the Towns treatment costs. The County can then acquire the Town treatment plant and perhaps the SBSD treatment plant to help reduce utility costs for all ToOI residents and property owners including those who are SBSD customers.

Additional alternate budget proposals include shutting down the Town golf course and privatization of the Town pier as it is unacceptable for the Town to compete directly with private business. Eliminate duplication by the Town of County law enforcement, recreation, real property tax collection, and utility services as it is unacceptable that Town property owners also pay a full share of County property taxes for those services. Reduce employee benefits to at most the average benefits of the Towns residents and property owners including HDHCP/HSA plans that can save the Town tens of thousands in expenses. A $6M reduction in Town expenses is just the beginning.

I have no illusion that this Town Council will give any consideration to any of the proposals in this alternate budget. The Town of Oak Island Über Alles adherents believe in the supremacy of the Town of Oak Island and the employees who serve the Town. Perhaps a $2000 bill from the Town and $150 plus utility bills including assessment payment will bring needed change to the Town government next year. In the mean time I suppose we can follow the lead of certain elected officials and forgo next year's property tax payments. We move here to live on the Island of Oak Island and have mostly tolerated the increasing intrusiveness of the Town of Oak Island. It is time for that to end. We can return to the days of a Lesser Long Beach when our life at the beach was our own.

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