Budget approved by board

Published 2:41 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

By Staff
Property-tax rate will not increase under spending plan
Contributing Editor
Beaufort County’s newly adopted $54 million budget for fiscal year 2008-2009 does not include an increase in the property-tax rate, but it does include increases in some other taxes.
That means the tax rate when applied to a $50,000 house generates tax revenues of $300.
The budget, which takes effect July 1, increases the EMS tax for service areas in the Long Acre Township to 4.5 cents per $100 tax valuation. It also increases the EMS tax in Chocowinity Township from 2.8 cents to 4 cents per $100 tax valuation.
The budget was approved by a 5-2 vote during a meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday morning. Voting for the spending plan were commissioners Jay McRoy, Jerry Langley, Robert Cayton, Ed Booth and Al Klemm. Voting against the budget were commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage.
The budget includes a $5,000 allocation to help pay for a study regarding the possible merger of the Beaufort-Hyde-Martin Regional Library, with its headquarters in Washington, with the Brown Library, which is owned and operated by the City of Washington, and the capital needs of each library.
Commissioners made it clear they favor such a merger, saying it should result in improved and more-efficient services. They want the BHM Library’s board of directors to carefully consider the study, once it’s completed, and its findings in the light of a merger of the two libraries. If the BHM directors determine they don’t want such a merger, the county wants them to provide other options regarding the future relationship between the two libraries, commissioners said.
McRoy, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, said he wants the BHM board “to find a way to make this happen” instead of “finding a way to not make this happen.”
In a related matter, the new budget includes a $32,000 allocation to provide the personnel needed to keep the libraries in Aurora and Bath, which are part of the BHM Library system, open more hours each week.
Commissioners, as they have done in previous years, also debated providing county dollars to outside organizations that had requested funds. Some received funding. Others did not.
Richardson said he opposes using taxpayers’ money to provide “gifts” to such organizations, which he termed “charities.” Richardson said it’s wrong for commissioners to decide which charities will receive money from taxpayers.
Although some of these organizations operate worthwhile programs, they should use money from sources other than taxpayers to pay for those programs, Richardson said. Deatherage concurred, saying it’s come to the point where the county must start refusing to provide taxpayers’ money to anyone who requests it.
The budget includes a $20,000 appropriation for Purpose of God Annex’s programs, including its Project New Hope initiative. Klemm said the county should give money to Purpose of God Annex because it’s programs have a proven track record of helping people and providing benefits to the county.
A motion to allocate $3,750 to the Beaufort County chapter of the American Red Cross was defeated. The chapter apparently planned to use any money it received from the county to help pay for a disaster-response vehicle, according to County Manager Paul Spruill.
Richardson opposed allocating $5,000 to Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County, saying the group would use the money to help illegal immigrants. The commissioner said taxpayers’ money should not be spent to aid people who break laws and place burdens on taxpayers. His motion to not provide the $5,000 to the group was defeated by a 5-2 vote. Deatherage voted with Richardson in support of that motion.
Commissioners voted 5-2, with Langley and Booth dissenting, to require the organization to “certify” to the county it will not use any of its money to help illegal immigrants. Meeting that requirement is a condition of the group receiving the $5,000 from the county.