Parking fees, trash pickup and Freeman Park passes all saw rate increases

CAROLINA BEACH -- The Carolina Beach Town Council has agreed to hike a host of fees to balance the town's 2018-19 budget, which was unanimously passed Tuesday.

Fees for parking, trash pickup, registering a golf cart, driving onto Freeman Park and much more all saw increases, which council members said were preferable to a property tax increase. The town's tax rate of 22.5 cents per $100 of assessed value will remain flat in the budget. For the owner of a $200,000 home, town property taxes would be $450.

"This is more of a cost-sharing with the people who come here to use the same services we do," Mayor Joe Benson said during Tuesday night's public hearing to adopt the $24.5-million spending plan, which goes into effect July 1.

But council members warned that the wide-ranging hikes may be a one-time revenue boost to balance the town's budget.

"This is not something that we can do next year. I think we're at a cap on these," Councilwoman LeAnn Pierce said. "I feel like we put a Band-Aid on the budget this year."

"There is going to be a day of reckoning when we'll have to look at the property tax," Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said.

But numerous fees will increase.

One resident protested the fees during the public hearing -- especially the doubling of Freeman Park's annual "early bird" pass, which is offered to people who buy an annual pass in person at a few sites during December.

"You can't keep coming to us and saying 'more, more, more,'" the man said. "I, for one, won't be buying a Freeman Park pass this year."

The council also accepted a host of cuts Town Manager Michael Cramer proposed to be removed from the budget. They included delaying hiring some staff and the purchase of replacement vehicles.

Kure Beach, meanwhile, is expected to adopt a budget on June 19 that will include a nearly 16 percent increase in the town's property tax rate, from 28.5 cents per $100 of assessed value to 33 cents per $100. For the owner of a home assessed for $200,000, property taxes would increase from $570 to $660.

The town's 2018-19 budget would also see increased fees for trash and recycling collection, the hiring of two new employees for administration and recreation, and raises for town employees of 2 percent for cost of living and the potential for more under a 2-percent merit pool.

Reporter Tim Buckland can be reached at 910-343-2217 or Tim.Buckland@StarNewsOnline.com.