The Lake Norman Marine Commission will seek an increase of more than 25 percent in funding from the four counties surrounding the lake, saying it has operated at the same budget level for a decade while the cost of doing business has risen.
Marine Commission officials said Jan. 12 that the commission would ask for $30,000 from each of the four counties for the 2015-16 fiscal year, an increase of about $6,500 per county.
Marine Commission executive director Ron Shoultz told the marine commissioners the budget increase is needed because of rising costs.
“You hit the nail on the head – the cost of doing business is going up,” Shoultz said. “The long costs when it comes to physical assets has gone up substantially, as well as some of our operating costs. The various insurances and bonds the commission is required to have by the state, those have gone up as well, and we’re just trying to stay in line with that.”
The Marine Commission’s proposed budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is $124,333, a nearly $20,000 increase over the final 2014-15 budget of $104,975.
Most of the funding for the 2014-15 budget came from the counties – Catawba, Iredell and Lincoln counties each contributed $23,500, and Mecklenburg County gave $23,661. The rest came from contributions to the Marine Commission’s hydrilla management program, charter boat licensing and rafting permit application fees.
More than half of the proposed 2015-16 budget will go toward navigational aids and maintenance – $65,858, up more than $16,000 from the previous year, when the commission spent $49,125.
Shoultz said the increase was needed because of budget overruns the Marine Commission has occurred the past several years, as well as additional markers in the more highly-traveled areas of the lake.
“The past few years, we’ve exceeded our spending, especially on ATON (Aids To Navigation) maintenance,” Shoultz told the marine commissioners. “That’s exceeded our expectations, and we’ve had to go into what minor reserves we have. We cannot continue to provide service of maintaining the navaid system that the public has become accustomed to on our current course.
“What (the proposed budget is) addressing is not only maintenance of our existing assets, but there’s a substantial list of assets we would like to put into the lake that we’ve identified as potential navigational hazards, that we could not address because we really didn’t have the money to add more markers on the lake.”
Shoultz said that next step is to send the proposed budget and county subsidy plan to the commissioners in the four Lake Norman-area counties. He added that meetings have already been held with all four county managers about budget issues.
“We’ve broached that issue with them, and let them know about our concerns,” Shoultz said.
Shoultz said his first budget presentation will be made to the Catawba County board of commissioners at the end of the month, followed by meetings with Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg’s commissioners in February and early March.
“We’ve never asked for an increase before, right?” asked LNMC chairman John Marino, formerly Catawba County’s marine commissioner, getting an affirmative answer from Shoultz. “If you calculate the cost of living increases throughout the years, I think it’s well within money well spent.”
In other business before the Lake Norman Marine Commission:
• Marine commissioners unanimously approved the wording on a joint resolution to be sent to the lake area’s four county commissions to clarify the powers of law enforcement officials over Lake Norman.
When the legislation establishing the Marine Commission was enacted in 1969, it also established that Lake Norman was “extra-territorial jurisdiction,” which meant that city and county lake patrol officers could enforce laws on Lake Norman outside of the normal county boundaries.
However, Shoultz said, several attorneys have raised questions about the wording of the original legislation, leading to marine commissioners seeking the joint resolution to settle the issue.
• Marine commissioners unanimously approved a FERC license application by a planned retirement community on the shores of Lake Davidson for an erosion-control and shoreline stabilization project.
Alex Robinson, an engineer with Love Engineering, said that standard rip rap would be applied over the majority of the 1,440-foot area, with enhanced rip rap used on the portion visible from Interstate 77.
The FERC application will now go to Duke Energy for final approval.
• The next Marine Commission meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center, 215 N. Main St., Mooresville.