Residents of the Village of Bald Head Island, a small community located off the coast of Brunswick County, are facing a substantial 21% tax hike as part of the recently approved budget by council. 

The driving force behind the tax increases that the Village is implementing can be attributed to several ongoing legal battles that the community is currently entangled in, particularly concerning the Bald Head Island Ferry System (BHIFS) which takes residents and visitors to and from the island. These legal disputes surrounding the BHIFS have cost taxpayers millions and severely impacted the Villages finances. They stem from a variety of factors, such as disputes over ownership, licensing, operational regulations, and environmental concerns. 

In May of 2022, Bald Head Island Limited (BHIL) the owner of the ferry system, announced a $56 million sale to SharpVue Capital, a Raleigh investment company. The Village objected to the sale and filed a complaint against BHIL and asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to step in. NCUC did just that and asserted its authority over Bald Head Island’s parking and barge operations. The ruling has been appealed and the transfer of assets is still awaiting approval from the Local Government Commission. 

Bald Head Island ferry. Courtesy: Bald Head Island Limited

The budget, which was adopted at the Villages council meeting unanimously on June 16th, calls for ad valorem or property tax revenues to increase by over $2 million compared to last year’s budget. According to the budget proposal this increase is needed to “fund personnel, operating, debt service payments, and legal expenditures.” 

According to Redfin, the average sale price for a house on Bald Head Island is $1.8 million, under the new tax rate a house sold at that price would see its property tax increase by over $1900 a year. 

During public comment at a meeting held on May 19th, residents in the Village voiced their concerns about the significant amount of money already expended on legal expenses related to the BHIFS. The residents stated that over $2.5 million had already been spent in this regard, and the quality of service has gone down. 

Village Mayor Peter Quinn indicated in an email on June 14th the legal expenses will remain. “We are continuing to allocate for anticipated professional expenses, including legal, consultants and financial advisors, associated with proceedings regarding the Transportation System.” Quinn continued, “This is a long-term investment towards a System that reflects the interests of Island stakeholders.” 

The mayor did not respond to requests for comment from Carolina Journal.

Other Budget Highlights 

  • Administration: There has been a significant 34% increase in administration funding, bringing the total budget for this area to $1.4 million. 
  • Public Works: The budget for public works has seen a notable 36% increase, with a total allocation of $1.2 million. 
  • Postal: The budget for the Village of Bald Head Island Package Center & Post Office is expecting a substantial 41% increase. 
  • Fund Balance: Zero Fund Balance appropriations are recommended with requested Capital Items kept to a minimum for essential needs.