By Dale Martin, City Manager
In last week’s recap of the city commission’s annual goal-setting session, I recapped some of the activities of the day but offered a minimal overview of the draft capital budget presented to the city commission. The capital budget, with its numerous high-dollar projects and purchases, frequently draws attention during budget preparation. Let me offer a more detailed review of the preliminary 2023/2024 capital budget.
The draft capital budget includes expenditures totaling nearly $17 million, down from this year’s budget of $25,600,000. Several one-time significant expenditures have contributed to this year’s higher expenditures: the construction of the new fire station, the infusion of federal American Rescue Plan funds for several projects such as the seawall/riverwalk, and water and stormwater projects. With the completion of those projects, some funds, most notably the airport, water, and stormwater funds have preliminary reductions for the next budget year.
Those funds, however, are distinct from the city’s General Fund, which draws two-thirds of its funding from property taxes. The General Fund transfers revenues to the Capital Improvements Fund for many of the proposed capital projects. The proposed allocation for the Capital Improvements Fund is $6,821,855, up from this year’s $6,254,580. The draft budget includes a transfer of $4,350,000, a reduction from this year’s transfer of $4,916,523. So what projects/purchases are accounted for in the $6,821,855 draft budget?
The significant expenditure of $1,230,000 for a new fire department aerial truck does inflate the total capital budget: loan revenues in the same amount offset the expenditure, but do contribute to the $6,800,000 total budget. Once that purchase is removed, the Capital Improvements Fund includes roughly $5,600,000 of expenditures. Except for only two other projects (information technology upgrades [$150,000] and city hall repairs [$575,000]), the streets department and the parks and recreation department consume all of the proposed expenditures ($4,765,000).
The parks and recreation department projects account for approximately two-thirds of the allocated funding. Improvements to the city’s two recreation facilities include $385,000 for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center (and pool) and $320,000 for the Atlantic Recreation Center. A structural analysis of those two facilities was recently completed, the results of which will determine, in large part, what improvements will be pursued.
Other proposed projects are Hickory Street Park improvements ($400,000), lighthouse rehabilitation ($400,000), North Beach Park boardwalk replacement ($300,000), general parks improvements ($300,000), Bosque Bello fencing ($300,000), Peck Center improvements ($260,000), resurfacing Central Park tennis and pickleball courts ($175,000), Main Beach Putt-Putt building improvements ($125,000; the city owns and leases the Putt-Putt facility), skatepark improvements ($100,000), public restroom improvements ($50,000) and Central Park lift station upgrades ($35,000).
For the streets department, the bulk of the proposed expenditures is for street re-surfacing. The city has approximately 80 miles of roads (70 miles paved). Several years ago, the city, with the use of an outside contractor, reviewed and rated all road miles within the city. The study then recommended an expenditure of approximately $800,000 annually to improve the overall condition of the city’s road network. The study indicated a backlog of 6% – those roads were in deteriorating condition and required remediation.
Additionally, all roads continue to deteriorate due to wear and weather. The goal is to forestall the transition of roads from the better and good categories to the poor and failed categories through effective preventive maintenance. The recommended annual expenditure for maintenance and restoration to at least maintain, if not improve, the aggregate road score is $800,000. That amount is again proposed in next year’s draft capital plan.
Another proposed streets expenditure is for new downtown lighting ($200,000). This is intended to be an ongoing multi-year expenditure: replacing all of the streetlamps downtown will be a significant effort. Funding for this project was contemplated last year as part of a larger general obligation bond, but that effort failed to move forward, leading to funding this project in this manner. Downtown streetscape ($100,000) is another long-term, multi-year project. Without a commitment to fully fund the project with a larger revenue source, the lamps and streetscape will be (hopefully, but not likely realistically) funded piecemeal over many years. Funding of $120,000 for sidewalks/curbs elsewhere throughout town is also proposed. The remainder of the streets department funding is for two major pieces of equipment: a bucket truck and a front-end loader.
With these projects and purchases presented, the city commission will have to prioritize these efforts, and any others yet to be added to the list, as part of next year’s budget. I recommend that everyone review this narrative and offer their comments as to what the priorities for the city’s capital spending should be. Those priorities will greatly shape next year’s budget.
All great information. Thank you Mr. Martin for providing the summary!
Thank you. The Bosque Bello fencing caught my eye. I just bicycled through there and felt its open landscape is part of its beauty, so I am wondering why a fence is needed.
Vandalism and partying has become a problem that needs to be addressed.