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County goes for a $57 million budget

By Staff
Maintains property-tax rate of 60 cents per $100
By NIKIE MAYO
News Editor
Beaufort County commissioners voted 5-2 Tuesday to support a $57.6 million budget that includes a 4 percent pay raise for all county employees and themselves, for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The budget, most of which goes toward the $52 million general fund to support county services and departments, maintains the property-tax rate at 60 cents per $100 valuation. It includes funding for an investigator for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, $40,000 to do an efficiency audit of Beaufort County Department of Social Services and a set $12.2 million allocation for the school system.
Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson, who voted against the budget, wanted a one-time, 5-cent cut to the property-tax rate. They said the county could use more of its reserve funds to support a one-year tax cut.
But other commissioners believed such a cut would prove too costly in the long run, particularly because County Manager Paul Spruill’s “three-year forecast” calls for increasing property taxes by 2 cents in that period to offset revaluation shock and other expenses. The county will also soon incur debt to build a new jail, Spruill said.
Spruill proposed a 3 percent pay increase for county employees, but Commissioner Jerry Langley upped it to 4 percent.
Richardson made the motion to up commissioners’ pay by the same amount, which equates to about $2,100 total to cover all seven of them. Richardson said upping the pay would yield “a better quality of candidate.”
Commissioners also approved a study of their salaries to see how their pay stacks up to that of other county leaders. That study is free to do, Spruill said.
The enterprise fund, which holds funds for the county’s water districts, accounts for $5.2 million of the overall budget. That fund is supposed to be a self-supporting one. Commissioners approved upping water rates for five of the seven districts, increasing rates in most of them by 8 percent, or about $2. In the Bath and Pantego districts, commissioners increased water rates by about 12 percent — about $3 — instead of implementing 2-cent tax hikes in those areas.
Commissioners also approved $349, 503 for the county’s economic-development efforts. Economic development is funded by the county, the City of Washington and each Beaufort County town.
Commissioners will formally adopt the budget ordinance for fiscal year 2007-2008 at their next regular meeting, which is set for July 2 at the Beaufort County Courthouse.