South Bethany proposes $3.3 million 2007 budget

South Bethany has tallied its figures and added red ink to black, finalizing the town’s draft budget for the 2007 fiscal year at a March 23 special meeting and budget workshop.

The final totals: $3.326 million in both revenue and expenditures for the fiscal year beginning May 1 — a balanced budget.

The town is planning for some $1.69 million in general fund expenditures, with $1.49 million in capital expenditures also on the books. Almost half of the town’s anticipated revenue — $1.3 million for capital projects — comes from prior years’ reserves, though, while the remaining portion comes largely from general-fund revenue and grants.

In the details of the budget, revenue from property taxes and transfer tax (1 percent of real estate transfers) is set to see a modest increase over the numbers from the 2006 fiscal-year budget ($225,000 and $350,000, respectively) and the year-to-date collection figures as of March 17 ($224,905 and $361,438, respectively). They’ll be budgeted at $228,500 for property tax and $350,000 for transfer tax.

The town’s other major source of income — rental tax — is due to see a more significant increase in revenue for the town. South Bethany has already collected 111 percent ($475,665) of its anticipated rental tax ($430,000) for the current fiscal year. So they’re upping that figure to an anticipated $450,000 in the 2007 fiscal year.

A $115,200 sidewalk grant from the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), $187,000 in anticipated revenue from trash collection, $70,000 in magistrate fines, $35,000 in rental license fees, $24,000 in mercantile license fees, $23,000 in building permit fees and the $27,000 cable television franchise fee round out the major contributors to the town’s revenue for the coming year.

Overall, the town has collected 125.9 percent of its anticipated $1.62 million in revenue for the current fiscal year ($2.04 million) — the additional amount boosting the anticipated revenue for the coming fiscal year to $1.69 million.

On the negative side of the balance sheet for the 2007 fiscal-year budget, major expenditures are broken up into departments: General and Administrative, at $691,310; Public Works, at $410,390, Public Safety at $422,952 and Beach Patrol at $169,100. That matches the anticipated $1.69 million in revenue, excluding reserves.

In the detailed look, General and Administrative includes $225,000 in life, health and general insurance costs, up about 24 percent from the combined insurance costs in 2006; salaries, at $162,964 (up just $2,000 over the 2006 budget); and the sidewalk expense tied to that DelDOT funding.

The capital budget for the General and Administrative area includes a new town hall vehicle at $12,672 and $35,000 in new office furniture (with a new town hall in the works).

Under Public Works, salaries are likewise up only $2,000 over the 2006 fiscal-year budget, with another $5,000 added to the salaries for part-time and seasonal workers. Proposed trash expenditures are up $7,000. The town is allowing for $16,000 in utility costs — the same as this year. Walkway/dune expenses are also budgeted at the same amount — $20,000.

With the town’s much-touted three-year beautification plan set to begin, there’s a little more in the budget this year — up to $27,750 from $20,950 in the 2006 budget and $20,744 spent this year as of March 17.

A separate line item, for landscaping contracting, shows a whopping 411,800 percent of budget spent for the year-to-date — but taxpayers can breathe easy: the town only budgeted $1 for such expense in 2006, while spending $4,118 to get the project started. There’s an additional $1,080 for the consulting services this fiscal year.

Street maintenance comes in at $30,000 this year, half of what was budgeted in 2006, though only $2,579 was spent. (The lesser figure would still allow for needed repairs with a summer storm season.)

The Public Works Capital Budget includes $35,000 for street drainage improvements, $12,000 for a Public Works vehicle and $12,500 for other equipment.

Council members tackled the somewhat controversial proposal to add a walkway to the Cat Hill section of the town during their March 23 meeting, citing a lack of public support — or even significant requests — for the project. Instead, council members moved the proposed funding to a York Road project designed to rework the road curbing (currently using plastic markers) at the southern edge of the York Beach Mall — at $15,000 in the proposed budget.

The South Bethany Public Safety budget includes $342,483 for salaries. That’s up $18,000 from the 2006 budget, but much less than the $590,930 the town has spent to date — 182 percent of the budgeted amount. Other major expenditures in public safety include $38,865 for training ($29,919 in the 2006 budget, and $24,030 year-to-date) and $15,000 for gasoline (nearly double the $8,500 budgeted amount for this year, and above even the $11,772 spent to date) — undoubtedly to account for ongoing increases in gas prices nationwide.

Again, there’s office furniture, with the new police facility to go with the new town hall — $30,000 worth.

The South Bethany Beach Patrol adds modestly to its current budget: $155,000 for salaries (including 15 returning guards and 10 new guards), up from $138,500 budgeted and $145,463 spent; and doubling training expenses from $1,500 to $3,000 (CPR and First Aid certification for the captain, certification for guards, pool tryouts and two or three competitions).

The town’s budget also includes the increasingly sparse Municipal Street Aid from the state — $70,000 to match the anticipated expenses for street paving from South Fifth Street to Logan Street, plus an additional $65,000 in expense budgeted for paving on Ocean Drive.

A $30,000 Homeland Security grant will pay for the town’s new emergency generator, while the town anticipates spending another $15,000 (estimated as at least $12,000) from its own funds to install the generator.

Closing out the proposed budget, capital expenses include the rather substantial expenses of the new town hall and police station. Some $1.3 million in prior-years’ reserves come back in, while $980,000 is budgeted to the town hall/police department project specifically. (There’s another $180,000 in the remaining 0.5 percent of transfer tax revenues, combining with other sources for $1.48 million in revenue going to the capital budget.)

Of that, $300,000 in reserves comes back under the canal dredge project, matching the anticipated expenses.

Other capital expenditures for the coming fiscal year include $22,500 for the town’s share of lobbyist/consultant expenses for Marlowe & Company — an expense that is shared with Bethany Beach. The town’s contingency fund will get $25,000. Departmental expenses under the capital budget come in at $47,672 for the General Administration, $74,500 for Public Works and $30,000 for Public Safety.

Finally, the town’s reserve funds take a significant hit this year. The total reserve is expected to decrease by more than half — from $2.49 million to just $1.06 million — most going to the town hall/police department project. The $29,523 for Municipal Street Aid is tapped, taking it down to $15,273, and the 0.5 percent of transfer tax in the reserve is wiped out — taking it from $846,094 to zero.

Again, the reserves go mostly to specific projects: $980,000 to the town hall project, $300,000 to canal dredging, the Municipal Street Aid projects and $15,000 to the police vehicle replacement project.

Unspecified projects total $231,546, from the $666,650 reserved for such items.

The council put the proposed budget forward after a series of meeting analyzing funding needs and anticipated revenue, presenting a balanced draft at their March 23 meeting and a final version of that draft posted at the town hall March 27. With that done, the council will hold a vote on adopting the proposed budget at their April 13 meeting.