Oak Island Town Council agreed during a budget meeting Tuesday to consider increases in fire fees, water rates and solid waste rates while maintaining recycling. Council did not decide on whether the ad valorem tax rate might change in the fiscal 2022 budget, which takes effect July 1.
The current property tax rate is 28 cents per $100 taxable value. The town also imposes a sewer district fee of $602 per lot. Four cents of the ad valorem fee goes toward sand projects of which two are ongoing. The town will meet with its contract engineer in June to assess where it can go with regards to long-term projects.
Council members also expressed concern about visitors trampling the dunes during the meeting.
Town Manager David Kelly said there would be a more aggressive plan to deal with Lockwood Folly Inlet erosion, with the town budgeting $100,000 a year – an amount matched by Holden Beach. Brunswick County and the state are also partners in the plan, Kelly said.
Some council members expressed concern about sand sources for long-term projects on Oak Island. “We may not have enough sand to do the long-term project,” said Council Member Sheila Bell.
Council Member John Bach said he was concerned about the engineering costs – approaching 10-percent – toward a long-term project that lacks a proven sand source, saying, “We really need to get this right.”
Consultants have suggested the town might pull sand from Frying Pan Shoals.
Council made no decision but agreed to consider asking for an increase in fire protection fees. The town needs at least one new ladder truck and is considering adding a three-person shift.
Raising fire fees by the maximum, which is 60-percent, would make the fire department almost self-sustaining, said Mayor Ken Thomas, and would raise almost $2.7-million dollars. Council agreed in concept to phase in any potential increases.
Council asked that all outside agencies asking for money provide audits. Members appeared to reject a request by the Southport-Oak Island Chamber of Commerce for an increase from $5,000 to $20,000, and they insisted that other agencies - including Water Rescue and the Brunswick County Literacy Council - provide audits.
Water bills will likely increase, Kelly said, because Brunswick County is raising wholesale rates by 81-percent. Staff proposed raising the rate for a typical 4,000-gallon-a-month user from $34.22 to $36.58.
Staff also suggested marginal increases in the fees for trash collection. Council voted, in the majority, to maintain curbside recycling at an increase projected to be 10- to 13-percent.
Thomas said the town should get out of the mandatory recycling business, but that was rejected by the majority of council.