SHORES OF PINE KNOLL – City commissioners voted 3-2 Wednesday night to approve a $5.09 million general fund budget for 2022-23 that increases the property tax rate by 3.3 cents, to 24 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The council met at town hall and online, with audio only, via GoToWebinar. The split vote came after a public hearing and public comment period in which most speakers urged the council to eliminate or at least reduce tax hikes at a time when high inflation is hurting many many inhabitants and owners of the city.

The primary reason for the tax increase is to pursue a general wage increase for all city employees, deemed necessary to retain current employees and attract new ones, as needed, in a time of fierce competition for workers.

Additionally, Mayor John Brodman and City Manager Brian Kramer said the city is “on the receiving end” of inflation, with rising costs for nearly all supplies needed to provide services to residents and visitors.

Although at least one speaker at the public budget hearing required Wednesday night urged council to reduce the amount of raises for city employees – the total cost to provide the pay raise is approximately $300,000 – Commissioner Ted Goetzinger said the increases only held back city employees. the “middle of the road” relative to employees in similar positions in comparable cities.

“We want to stay in the middle,” he said. “I think it’s a rudimentary budget.”

Suggestions on how to reduce the tax increase also included temporarily reducing the Beach Restoration Fund tax, withdrawing more money from reserves, and attempting to merge some departments with adjacent Indian Beach.

Mayor Brodman said the latter had been discussed with Indian Beach officials without success in the past.

Mr. Goetzinger said he was opposed to taking more money out of the reserves.

Commissioner Bill Knecht has said he opposes the reduction of the beach food tax.

“You don’t know when that storm is going to come” and erode the beach, he said.

Commissioner Robert Cox wondered where the salary would end, as some of the “comparable” towns have already increased employee salaries and will likely continue to do so.

“At some point we have to say… there’s not much we can do,” he said.

The budget uses $200,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, plus some use of reserves and tax increases, to finance the increases.

The tax increase, which will take effect on July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, will increase the annual municipal property tax bill by $165 on a $500,000 property.

Water usage rates will also increase to pay for necessary system upgrades.

Mayor Brodman said the ideas offered during the public comments merit further discussion in the future.

The biggest expense in the budget is $2.97 million for public safety: fire, police, and EMS protection.

The budget includes a small capital expenditure fund, approximately 1.5% of the total budget. The largest capital expenditures will be the rotation of a single police vehicle, an upgrade to the city’s main law enforcement radio channel, and costs associated with work on the unified development ordinance planned by the city.

The budget does not propose changes to the beach restoration tax, which will remain at 5.5 cents per $100 of assessed value for beachfront properties and 1.5 cents for non-beachfront properties .

Commissioner Goetzinger moved the motion to approve the budget as presented by the Director and was joined in the affirmative by Commissioners Clark Edwards and Alicia Durham. Mr. Cox and Mr. Knecht voted against the motion. Mayor Brodman only votes to break ties.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email [email protected]; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.