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Town Board Meeting May 2020
Budget amendments and Flood Insurance
May 7, 2020

he agenda for the May Board of Commissioners meeting was focused on a Public Hearing to adopt the revised Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, however a budget amendment allocation FEMA funds drew the most attention from the public.

town hall signThe Town Board continued to conduct meetings via Zoom, with Mayor Sally Belangia, Town Manager Diane Miller, and Commissioners David White and Charlie Overcash attending the meeting from Town Hall. Commissioners Alan Price, Dianne Simmons, and Martin Barrow joined in via Zoom.

Budget Amendment
FEMA released $163,446.24 to the Town of Oriental for damage and expense claims from Hurricanes Florence and Dorian. A budget amendment putting the funds back into the General Fund was presented to the Board of Commissioners for approval. In that amendment, the funds were split between several line items, to reimburse those lines for monies spent on administrative, labor, and equipment costs incurred during the hurricanes in 2018 and 2019.

The first line of the General Fund Expense section reads ‘Town Manager Salary.’ It showed a beginning balance of $64,000, an amendment from the FEMA money for $25,561.55, and an ending balance of $89,561.55. Looking at that line alone, it appeared that the Town Manager was begin given $25k plus more than her salary, prompting several calls to Town Hall.

May Town Board Meeting 2020
The first lines of the budget amendment.

Larry Summers, a former commissioner, was one of those callers. He attended Tuesday’s meeting in person to speak about the amendment during public comments. In a written statement, he said the amendment, “is certainly confusing and somewhat disturbing as written. The Town Manager’s salary was a total of $80,000 per year with $16,000 coming from the Water Fund.” Summers said it appeared that there was an extra $9,561.55 increase to the Manager’s salary.

Though the General Fund shows only the $64k, the manager’s salary is split between the General Fund and the Water Fund – something not shown on this amendment, but seen in the monthly financial statements published with the Manager’s Report.

When asked about the split, Commissioner David White explained all Town Hall employee salaries are currently split between the General Fund and the Water Fund. The split is determined by the percentage of hours spent working either in the water plant, on water issues in the town, or administrative costs related to the water fund versus hours worked on non water-related tasks. Commissioner White said this breakdown is done as a way to measure the actual cost of water production in Oriental.

The split in fund sources can make the final number hard for the average citizen to find and understand; if you’re expecting to see a single salary line, you don’t go looking for it in more than one place. Which did lead to the assumption that the Town Manager was suddenly receiving $89,561.55 in salary.

Town Manager Diane Miller said the amendment was not a salary increase, but a line item increase to recoup the hourly expenses of working during the hurricanes. There are also amendment increases to other positions: Administrative Assistant Salary, Public Works Salaries, and Police Officers A & B.

Deputy Finance Director Tammy Cox said the amendment is a reimbursement for money paid out during the hurricanes in 2018 and 2019; the line items would not match because in this budget because FEMA takes so long to repay, that the yearly budget cycles have moved on.

Cox, Miller, and Commissioner White all said that amendment funds, including the Town Manager’s $64,000 salary in the General Fund, would return to the General Fund at the end of this fiscal year on June 30.

The Commissioners agreed to accept the budget amendment as it was written.

During the April 30 Budget Meeting, Commissioner Martin Barrow asked that a position summary, showing the total salary amount from all funds and lines, be included with the published budget. He cited the confusion generated by the split in funding sources.

At that meeting and at Tuesday’s meeting, Town Manager Miller said the information is public record and available by request.

Flood Prevention Ordinance
For several months the Planning Board and the Board of Commissioners have been working on a Flood Prevention Ordinance along with Pamlico County. The ordinance helps determine flood insurance ratings in the county.

The flood maps being used for the determination of the floodplain do not contain water level data from Hurricanes Irene or Florence. (Both of those events flooded the town with 9.5 and 9.6 feet of water respectively.)

When the ordinance takes effect, it will raise hundreds of buildings out of the flood plain, even though those same buildings took on water during Irene and Florence. By doing so, those properties will no longer be required to obtain flood insurance.

In order for any resident of Oriental to obtain Flood insurance, the Town has to sign onto the agreement, even though they do not agree with the flood map data.

During the public hearing, Commissioner Overcash said, “we don’t have any choice – we have to pass it.” All commissioners agreed and the motion passed.

Town Manager Miller said she encourages residents to carry flood insurance, though they may now technically be out of the flood plain.

The ordinance has been added to the current Growth Management Ordinance.

Manager’s Report
• Whittaker Point Restoration: A change order for the restoration project decreases the overall cost by $237,534.10 due to granite trucked in by road instead of by barge.
• Repair to roads due to Whittaker Point Restoration: A request has been made to the Golden Leaf Foundation, the only private Whittaker Point Restoration grantor, for grant funds to be moved from construction to road repair. Bringing in granite to the project site will decimate roads. State and federal grants will not cover the repair work because it was not stated in the proposal – the granite was slated to be brought in over water, not land.
• A request has been sent to FEMA asking to use overage funds for the town’s Capital Projects. Because the town used their own people and equipment during the hurricanes, instead of contractors, there were excess reimbursement funds. Those are allowed to be used toward capital projects. As FEMA funds can take years to release, the capital projects may go into the 20-21 fiscal budget as unfunded items.
• Census response due date has received an extension. Replies determine how much federal funding municipalities will receive in the next decade. Town Hall is trying to get the word out to the community to respond to the census. It can be accessed online
• Pamlico County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan: This impacts the cost of Flood Insurance in Oriental and Pamlico County. Oriental takes additional steps (education, meetings, etc.) that help accrue mitigation points towards flood insurance discounts for residents. The firm hired to determine Oriental’s rank in the community ranking system used guidelines from 2007, instead of 2017, and increased Oriental’s rank from 8 to 9 (where 10 is the worst). Oriental has been trying to get this corrected. The mitigation efforts have finally been included in the Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Police Report
Manager Miller reported to the board that the police report was “a standard report” and no verbal report was given. The report is here.

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, June 2 at 7p. The next budget meeting will be May 14 at 8a.

Related Information
May Meeting Agenda
Meeting Minutes
Building Inspection Agreement
Budget Amendment
GMO Amendment
Auditor Contract
Manager’s Report and Financials
Police Report

Posted Thursday May 7, 2020 by Allison DeWeese

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