By Dale Martin
June 24, 2022
As City staff moves through the budget preparation process, a key component of the annual budget is the Capital Improvement Budget. Over the past several years, the City has transferred approximately $3,000,000 from the General Fund (property taxes and other revenues) to the Capital Improvement Fund for major projects. This year, a Capital Committee comprised of several senior staff, reviewed the capital requests presented by each department and offered a recommendation for capital projects.
The first component of the Capital Fund that is essentially untouchable is the funding necessary to satisfy earlier debt obligations. The City currently has two such obligations: one for a fire truck and another for a rescue unit. The total principal and interest payments for those two vehicles is approximately $150,000.
Several projects originally budgeted in the current year will likely not be completed this year, so a portion of the originally budgeted funds will be again included in next year’s budget. These projects include software packages ($166,000), the burying of Front Street utilities ($155,000), and the railroad crossing improvements at Ash and Centre Streets ($75,000). Another “carry-over” project is the development of the Beach Habitat Conservation Plan ($180,000), but that project, although in the Capital Improvement Fund, will be funded through a State grant and the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU; commonly referred to as the “sand tax”).
The Capital Committee recommended nearly $1,500,000 for Recreation facility improvements. Completing the re-pointing (mortar repairs) at the Peck Center will require nearly $700,000 and improvements at the Atlantic Recreation Center will require $625,000. Improvements at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center are estimated at $125,000. Aquatics improvements are budgeted at another $20,000.
Other recommended improvements related to Parks total $1,100,000. These improvements include $300,000 each for the North Beach boardwalk, the Seaside Park boardwalk, and the Central Park playground. An additional $100,000 is recommended for fencing at Central Park and smaller amounts for the skatepark ($50,000), lift station improvements ($35,000), and lighthouse rehabilitation ($30,000).
Public safety recommendations were approximately $500,000. Improvements to the Police Station, originally included in this year’s budget but postponed due to the higher cost of another improvement this year, are again budgeted at $30,000. For the Fire Department, the acquisition of breathing apparatus is budgeted at nearly $300,000. Improvements to Fire Station No. 1 (Beech and 14th Street) are estimated at $60,000. Once the new Fire Station No. 2 is completed at the Airport, the disposition of Fire Station No. 2 (John Robas and 1st Avenue- near Seaside Park) will have to be determined but will likely require some rehabilitation for its new use: $75,000 is budgeted for rehabilitation.
Other general projects recommended by the Capital Committee included stucco repairs to City Hall ($200,000), library improvements ($200,000), and downtown infrastructure (lighting, $200,000; sidewalk/streetscape. $100,000). Information technology equipment requires $125,000.
The final component of the Capital Fund is Streets. Based upon the recommendation presented in the City’s pavement management plan, $800,000 is budgeted for street resurfacing. An additional $110,000 is budgeted for sidewalks.
The City’s other capital fund is the Capital Expansion Fund which utilizes impact fees for capital projects. The two expansion projects recommended in next year’s budget are the completion of the new Fire Station No. 2 ($800,000) and a walkover at Beach Access 16 ($120,000).
I am working primarily with Ms. Pauline Testagrose to complete the entire proposed budget for the 2022/2023 year. This budget will have to address several new challenges specifically related to the increased (and increasing) costs of personnel, equipment, goods, and fuel. My proposed budget will be provided to the City Commissioners on July 18 and presented to the community at the City Commission meeting on July 19.
The City Commission is slated to set the tentative millage rate to support the budget at a special meeting on July 26. Two City Commission workshops regarding the budget are scheduled for August 3 and August 4. Additional workshops can be scheduled if necessary.
The two required public hearings on the proposed budget will be conducted by the City Commission on September 6 and September 20. The budget would likely be approved, as well, on September 20, and go into effect on October 1.