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EDC tentatively OKs hold-the-line $254K budget

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission is moving forward with a largely hold-the-line budget for next year, though it’s expecting a bump in personnel-related costs.

EDC board members tentatively approved a $254,500 spending plan during their meeting Wednesday morning in the Pasquotank Public Safety Building. The budget will move forward to a public hearing and final vote next month, EDC officials said.

While next year’s proposed budget would spend a little less than the $257,050 approved in this year’s budget, it would absorb some rising personnel costs. Alluding to raises the city and county are considering for other employees, EDC Director Christian Lockamy noted he included a 3-percent “placeholder” raise in the budget. That raise would apply to him and the commission’s only other employee, administrative assistant Kathy Harris, raising his pay to $87,550 and hers to $36,050.

The city is proposing 3-percent raises for most city employees, with county raises to be determined.

The EDC is also expecting increased payroll taxes and increased retirement contributions, the latter a state requirement imposed on units of local government. However, the agency is projecting a drop in health insurance costs — from $27,000 to $24,000 — that would offset the increase in retirement costs.

The EDC, which helps lead recruitment of large businesses, would be paid for primarily through contributions of about $105,000 each from the city and county. That’s the same as this year. The budget also calls for using up to $44,096 in fund balance.

Following the meeting, Lockamy and Harris said the EDC’s fund balance started the year at about $70,000, and it should finish the year around there. The EDC budgeted almost $37,000 in fund balance this year, but the EDC saw salary savings after the departure of former director Wayne Harris. He retired last year and Lockamy didn’t start until the fall.

The EDC’s single largest non-personnel expense is marketing, which Lockamy said he’s kept at $35,000. The EDC will be changing its marketing, however, as he explained $12,000 of that is to cover dues to the NCEast Alliance, a regional economic development group based in Greenville. An outside group is no longer able to cover those dues, and the Alliance generates important leads, he said.

As for other marketing spending, Lockamy said the EDC would target its advertising based on the goals and recommendations of its new strategic plan, a draft of which should be available in a few weeks.

In other updates Wednesday, Lockamy presented the board with the general content of the new website, but said it’s a few months away from going live. The website will be redeveloped and simplified based on the strategic plan, he said, explaining he intends to have a “minimalist,” image-heavy, and mobile-friendly website similar to other economic development sites but that still touts the area’s business positives, particularly its proximity to the Port of Virginia.

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