Emerald Tidings

January 2009

  1. Town Maintains Solid Financial Position
  2. Three Comprehensive Beach Nourishment Plans Underway
  3. Beach Walkways to Be Replaced
  4. New Hotel Planned for Emerald Isle
  5. FOR SALE - Existing EMS Station Building

Town Maintains Solid Financial Position

Despite the current economic crisis, the Town maintains a solid financial position. Thompson, Price, Scott, & Adams (TPSA), a Wilmington accounting firm, recently completed the Town's June 30, 2008 financial report and annual audit. The Town received a favorable audit report, with no significant issues identified.

As of June 30, 2008, the Town had a total fund balance (i.e., reserves) of more than $6 million. The Town's General Fund balance is more than $2 million, while the Beach Nourishment Debt Service Reserve Fund ended the year with approximately $2.4 million in fund balance. The Beach Nourishment Debt Service Reserve Fund balance is earmarked for future debt service payments on the Town's outstanding bonds, and enables the Town to maintain stable tax rates for the beach nourishment special tax districts. The remainder of the Town's fund balance is primarily earmarked for in-progress capital projects - approximately $1.6 million. These funds will be gradually depleted during the course of the year as the Town completes various projects.

The General Fund ended June 30, 2008 with a net surplus of $196,000, and this surplus was added to the Town's General Fund balance. The annual General Fund budget is approximately $7.5 million, thus the Town's General Fund balance of approximately $2 million is equal to approximately 27% of the annual budget. General Fund balance is the Town's key reserve fund for response to natural disasters and other short-term emergencies. The Board and staff strive to find the right balance between maintaining a healthy fund balance to insure that the Town maintains a strong financial position and not holding our taxpayers' money unnecessarily.

The Town's total outstanding debt as of June 30, 2008 is approximately $10.2 million, or 0.24% of the Town's total assessed valuation of more than $4.2 billion. NC law allows local governments to borrow up to 8.00% of the total assessed valuation, however, the Town will never realistically even come close to this figure. The Town's official Fiscal Policy adopted by the Board limits the Town's outstanding debt to 2.00% of the total assessed valuation of the Town.

Although the Town maintains a solid financial position, the Town is feeling the impact of the current economic crisis, and has already taken action. Due primarily to declining sales tax and building permit revenue, the Board of Commissioners approved $170,000 of expenditure reductions at their November 2008 meeting, equal to approximately 2% of the Town's FY 08-09 budget. The Town has delayed certain capital items and instituted a selective hiring freeze on vacant positions. The Town continues to carefully monitor Town revenues and will act accordingly in the future to maintain the Town's solid financial position.

The FY 09-10 budget process will begin in February, and will culminate with the adoption of the new budget in June 2009. The upcoming budget process is expected to be challenging, however, the Board and staff will be working hard to minimize the need for any tax rate increase while maintaining Town service quality.

Three Comprehensive Beach Nourishment Plans Underway

Thanks to the completion of two significant beach nourishment projects in 2003 and 2005, and two smaller projects to replace sand lost from Hurricanes Isabel and Ophelia in 2004 and 2007, the Town's beaches remain in good condition. The Town recognizes that the beach is our most important asset, and remains committed to maintaining the storm protection and recreational value of our beaches.

It has now been nearly 6 years since the first project was completed in eastern and central Emerald Isle. Because of the durability of the Town's projects, the Town does not expect to have to nourish the beaches again for at least a few more years (barring hurricane-related erosion). Because there is significant lead time involved in constructing a beach nourishment project, work is now underway on several levels to plan for future beach nourishment projects in Emerald Isle.

The Town is beginning to develop its own 30-year beach nourishment plan to guide future beach nourishment activities in Emerald Isle and to enable the Town to qualify for a "static line exception" from the NC Coastal Resources Commission. The Town's plan will identify potential funding strategies and sand sources, and outline a potential timeline for future projects. The Town's plan will be consistent with the Carteret County Beach Commission's long-term plan for all of Bogue Banks. Representatives from the County and the municipalities on Bogue Banks recently met to begin this process. Finally, the State of North Carolina is preparing a Beach and Inlet Management Plan for the entire coast, and the Town's and County's plans will hopefully be folded into the State plan.

As noted earlier, the Town should be at least a few years away from the next nourishment project. The Town's goal will be to complete beach nourishment as infrequently as possible while still maintaining a wide beach strand for storm protection and recreation purposes. Unlike the original projects in 2003 and 2005, the Town expects to be able to tap significant financial resources from the State and from the County room occupancy tax fund for future projects. These additional revenue sources should make beach nourishment significantly more affordable for Emerald Isle taxpayers in the future (compared to the special district tax rates in place now).

The Town and the County continue to pursue the Federal 50-Year Shore Protection Project, however, these new planning efforts are underway in case Federal funding never materializes for this project.

Beach Walkways to Be Replaced

Contractors for the Town will soon begin the removal and reconstruction of existing beach access walkways at Gregg Street and Ocean Oaks Drive. Work should be complete by the end of February, in time for the 2009 season.

The majority of the Town's beach access walkways were constructed by the original developers of the various subdivisions in Emerald Isle many years ago. Some of these walkways are nearing the end of their useful lives, and the Town has embarked on a program to replace 2 or 3 walkways per year, as funds permit. Gregg Street and Ocean Oaks Drive were identified as most in need of repair during a recent comprehensive inventory of the Town's 57 public access walkways.

Deane Rice Construction, an Emerald Isle contractor, will complete the work for the Town. The total cost of this work is approximately $42,000.

New Hotel Planned for Emerald Isle

The site plan and building elevations were recently approved by the Board for the proposed Emerald Suites hotel. The new hotel is planned for a vacant tract of land at the corner of NC 58, Islander Drive, and Crew Drive. The new hotel will have a total of 53 rooms in an attractive 3-story structure. A swimming pool is planned, along with shuttle service to the nearby Western Ocean Regional Access. The Town looks forward to construction of the new hotel, scheduled to begin in 2009.

FOR SALE - Existing EMS Station Building - 218 Cedar Street

The Town is currently offering the old EMS station property for sale. The sale price is $450,000, and the Town will consider all offers. A detailed property listing, including photos, is available for viewing at http://www.emeraldisle-nc.org/forsale.htm.

The Town is currently in the process of completing several interior renovations to improve the interior appearance and functionality of the building. For more information, please contact Town Manager Frank Rush at 252-354-3424 or frush@emeraldisle-nc.org.

Frank A. Rush, Jr.
Town Manager
Posted by Frank Rush Thursday, January 1, 2009 8:04:00 AM