NEW BERN (WNCT) – The City Manager of New Bern presented the annual budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year at Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

New Bern city officials said improving the quality of life for its citizens is a top priority, and the budget reflects those goals. The proposed budget was balanced at more than $149 million, with funds going to public safety, resiliency infrastructure, street and sidewalk enhancements and more.

“When you take a look at our electric department, our sewer, stormwater refuge, and trash pickup, all of those are little different entities within the City of New Bern,” New Bern Mayor Jeffrey Odham said.

The tax rate for the area could decrease as well Odham said, adding it was a topic to be discussed at the Board of Aldermen meeting.

“The tax rate is sort of the precursor to everything in the budget,” Odham said. “Everything sort of revolves around that. Once we figure out exactly what we want that to be, then we can decide what we can afford to do whether that’s to increase services or equipment or what have you.”

Maintaining employee numbers and reducing turnover is also important, Odham said. The proposal included a merit-based salary increase of up to 2% and 3% cost of living adjustment for all employees.

“Our wages were below the average, so we’ve been working diligently over the past several months to get our salaries back up to what the standard is for this region,” Odham said.

When it comes to public safety, New Bern Fire-Rescue could see some equipment replaced, and there are 10 new vehicles for the police department in the proposal.

New Bern Police Chief Patrick Gallagher said maintaining his department’s fleet is a part of protecting the community.

“Police vehicles are much like any other asset,” Gallagher said. “They do wear out and it is important that our fleet is updated annually, that’s every year. So that the older vehicles can be replaced with newer vehicles and the maintenance cost is reduced when we have newer vehicles as opposed to older vehicles.”

New Bern city officials said they hope to approve the budget by June. If approved, the budget would go into effect July 1, 2023.

Click here to read the budget proposal.