Proposed county budget includes no tax increase

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, May 8, 2008

By Staff
Commissioners prepare for revaluation process
Staff Writer
Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill presented commissioners Monday night with a proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning July that “represents no change in the property tax rate.”
The county’s budgeting process, which will begin Monday at 8 a.m. when commissioners will gather for a workshop, will be less “dramatic” than that same process was last year, Spruill said.
The county not only is staring another budget season in the face, but also an eight-year revaluation of property values that soon will be under way. In that context, Spruill said, the county should be making budgeting decisions based on a larger picture of future goals for the county’s bank accounts. Spruill laid out the goal of the county, as he understood it, in a letter to commissioners prefacing the proposed budget.
Spruill said “it is time for us to start thinking of future budget decisions in context of achieving this goal.” The tax revaluation will go into effect beginning with fiscal year 2010-2011.
The proposed budget calls for raising and spending $53,839,307, which is $4.1 million less than the county budgeted for the current fiscal year. The decrease in spending is the result of a number of capital investments and other one-time appropriations totaling $5,958,208 the county made during the current fiscal year. Spruill lists nine such expenditures in his budget proposal including school construction costs, expenses associated with the upcoming revaluation, expenses associated with employee compensation and a the first appropriation of $119,000 to the Agape Clinic for the purpose of setting up a dental clinic, among others.
Spruill said the county’s property tax revenue has “experienced normal growth” over the current fiscal year, bringing in an estimated $23,566,161 — a 3.7 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. Local sales-tax revenue appears to be down significantly according to the proposed budget, but the trend is because of the state Medicaid relief plan, which calls for the reversion of some sales-tax dollars to the state for the current fiscal year. Spruill estimated the county would eventually benefit to the tune of almost $2 million by the time the county is completely relieved of its Medicaid burden three years from now.
County departments have requested $2,173,489 more in funding for the upcoming fiscal year than they received this fiscal year. In his proposed spending plan, Spruill recommended funding $765,798 of those requests. Commissioners will consider the amount to fund each department during a series of budget workshops. The commissioners also agreed to hold a workshop at 5 p.m. May 20. They will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 6:30 p.m. May 27.