Town budgets are interesting. No, really, they are.
We are all very intent on where the money goes — police, infrastructure, miscellaneous projects, etc. Towns must juggle the priorities of these things when deciding their budgets because, let’s face it, the money going out is dependant on the money coming in to the town.
“Whenever we do budgets for permits, it’s like shooting dice,” said Fenwick Island Mayor Peter Frederick. “It’s an estimate.”
And that’s the problem.
Towns do not know how much will come in each year from building permits, transfer taxes, parking fees or traffic tickets. Oh, they can take educated guesses based on previous years and projects that have already been approved, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what will come in when all is said and done.
Hence the problems with deciding what projects can be done in a coming year and what kind of loans the towns might need to take to make the projects a reality.
And so goes the ongoing conflict between the growth that comes from building and the desire to improve public services.
Stricter ordinances have delayed some of the growth, but it has done little to stave off the need for public services.
We’ve been spoiled around here for a long time. Oh, we like to bemoan the growth the area has seen, but we’ve also benefited from what that growth has provided. The egg or the chicken. The chicken or the egg.
Is the answer to begin going on quarterly budgets than can be altered depending on the income the towns are receiving? Probably not.
We have enjoyed reasonable taxes in this area for decades, but higher tax rates could be the direction towns inevitably need to go if push comes to shove.
Especially if we are so intent on slowing growth.