Ed Dickie leaves St. James

Edward Dickie’s last day as St. James Town Manager was last Friday.

Dickie, who has served as for nearly two years, has taken a similar position in Northern Arizona. The Town staff and council members held a reception for Dickie following the council’s work session on Friday.

Gary Brown, a previous town manager for St. James, has been hired as a part-time consultant to handle managerial duties while the search for a new town manager progresses. According to Mayor Jean Toner, interviews for that position are underway this week.

“We appreciate the time Ed has spent with us,” Toner said. “We’ve enjoyed having him here and appreciate all the work he has done - as well as his sense of humor. We wish him the best of luck in his new position.”

Budget work session

At their April 22 work session, members of the St. James Town Council reviewed an introductory presentation for the proposed 2021-2022 fiscal year operating budget.

Finance Director Pauline Haran presented a budget overview that evolved from the council’s February 23 planning, policies and goals retreat. The proposed operating budget comes in at $3,388,453 – about a 16% increase over the town’s fiscal year 2020-2021 operating budget.

“We feel this is a conservative revenue budget with no increase in tax rates from the prior year,” Haran told the council.

A number of new items are covered in the proposed budget including: improvements to the town hall HVAC system and conference room; increased funding for the St. James Fire Department, Community Center and Town Hall landscaping; Maxwell Drive embankment erosion mitigation; increased funding for the UNCW Marine Science Center oyster project at St. James; and several more items.

“Additionally, the proposed budget enables a healthy fund balance for emergency needs,” said Haran. “It keeps our commitments on target for disaster recovery and the St. James Fire Department vehicle fund.”

The proposed budget will be the focus of a public hearing to be held during the May 5 Town Council meeting. The proposed budget will be available for residents to review at the upcoming meeting. Following the hearing, Haran hopes for adoption of the budget by June 7. The town’s 2021-2022 fiscal year begins July 1.

Strong finish

Haran also advised town council members that St. James is in strong financial shape as it closes out the current fiscal year, telling them, “We have just a few ‘housekeeping’ items to close out for the year.” As of April 15, the town had collected 102% of budgeted revenues, or $2,997,000. The town has spent 87% of total budgeted expenditures, or $2,541,000.

An amendment request for the current 2020-2021 budget will also be presented at the May 5 council meeting, according to Haran, who also said the town had a few extra expenditures during the current budget year, so a $250,000 increase in the local option sales tax budget will be requested.

“This would more accurately reflect what we are receiving this year,” she said. “We have also received reimbursement of $29,462 from the St. James Plantation Property Owners Association (POA) for Hurricane Isaias debris removal and COVID-19 expenses.” The total - $279,462 - will be applied to accounts for storm debris removal already incurred, HVAC maintenance, and new consultant fees.

A second request to be presented at the May 5 council meeting is a resolution to assign a portion of the 2020-2021 general fund balance to disaster recovery and fire protection. The request is based on a positive general fund balance for the current fiscal year. A little over $367,000 will go toward disaster recovery while $400,000 will go toward the St. James Fire Department fund for new vehicle replacement needed over the next 10 years. The resolution will take effect immediately after being passed by the council May 5.

The St. James Town Council has also finalized a draft agreement with the St. James Plantation POA for storm debris removal from roads and common areas. The three-year agreement will be up for final approval at the May 5 meeting