County contemplates cuts

Published 4:55 pm Friday, April 24, 2009

By Staff
Staff Writer
Beaufort County could spend 4 percent less in the next fiscal year than it planned to spend this fiscal year.
Even so, the county would use almost $2 million from its savings, according to a spending plan proposed Thursday by County Manager Paul Spruill.
His recommended budget calls for no increase in the county’s property-tax rate of 60 cents per $100 valuation, but the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners has the final say on the tax rate.
The proposed budget includes a 5 percent cut in the county’s work force, which was announced earlier this year and is scheduled to take effect in June. The cuts are the result of a dramatic drop in revenue caused by the downturn in the economy, Spruill said.
Spruill told the commissioners the property-tax rate has dropped from 67 cents to 60 cents per $100 since 2001. He called the 2009-2010 budget “razor thin.”
Even with the $1,996,968 recommended to come from the county’s savings, revenues are expected to be down 5.1 percent in the upcoming fiscal year when compared to revenues this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Routine projects like carpet replacement and parking-lot repaving are put on hold in Spruill’s proposal. Other expenses, such as replacement cars for sheriff’s deputies and lettering on cars are being reduced. Spruill is recommending the sheriff’s office get three replacement cars rather than the nine it requested.
One of the largest expenditures that staff requested and that Spruill recommends denying is $37,568 sought by the Department of Social Services for a foreign-language line and additional translators hired on a contract basis.
The county is trying to protect its savings as much as possible to minimize the effects of the property revaluation ongoing in the county. That state-mandated process likely will raise homeowners’ tax bills by raising the assessed values of their properties.
Even if the county maintains a revenue-neutral budget through the first year after revaluation, “we’re still going to have 1,000 people at the courthouse who are going to want to shoot every one of you,” Spruill told the county commissioners.
In other business, the board accept the state’s health-services contract. The state provides funds estimated to be more than $800,000 for health services in the county, but it requires the county to impose certain policies and procedures at its health department.
Commissioner Hood Richardson questioned Roxanne Holloman, director of the health department, about whether her department tells people where they can receive abortions or distributes condoms to minors and how much service illegal aliens receive.
Holloman said the health department does tell women where they can receive abortions, if asked, and does give condoms to minors. Holloman said minors seeking family planning advice also get counseling, including abstinence promotion, and are sometimes referred to DSS.
Spruill said that the health department is required to do both things.
Holloman said about 18 percent of clients in the federal Women, Infants and Children program need an interpreter and more than 12 percent of general clinical clients do, too.
Commissioner Stan Deatherage voted against the proposal, as did Richardson, who called it “a farce on the public.”
He said, “We’re serving a community that we don’t need to be swerving in illegal immigrants.”