County wise to cut funding until economy strengthens

Published 5:23 pm Saturday, April 25, 2009

By Staff
Given the perilous situation in which the sagging economy has placed it, Beaufort County is wise to contemplate cuts to its upcoming fiscal year budget.
The severity of the situation was clarified at Thursday night’s special Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting when County Manager Paul Spruill suggested the county spend 4 percent less in 2009-10 than it did this year.
The cuts are the result of a dramatic drop in revenue caused by the downturn in the economy, Spruill said at the meeting.
Even with the proposed reduction in spending, the county expects to have to use almost $2 million from its savings, according to Spruill’s calculations.
If there’s any good news on the horizon, it’s that the proposed budget calls for no increase in the county’s property-tax rate of 60 cents per $100 valuation, though commissioners will ultimately decide the fate of that suggestion.
The proposed budget includes a 5 percent cut in the county’s work force, which was already announced and will take effect in June.
As the county moves forward in the budget process, it must carefully examine all departments to assess how to most effectively reduce spending. We’re glad the county hasn’t taken an “across-the-board” mind-set for cutting expenses.
In the end, county residents will benefit much more from a detailed evaluation of county services and what can be reduced or eliminated in strategic areas rather than slicing all departments equally.
In other business Thursday night, the board accepted a state contract that provides about $800,000 for health services in the county. The contract stipulates the county impose certain policies and procedures at its health department.
These include such services as responding to questions from residents about abortion providers, offering condoms to minors and providing interpreters for clients in the federal Women, Infants and Children program.
Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voted against accepting the contract, with Richardson calling it “a farce on the public.”
From our viewpoint, the only farce would have been turning down funding — regardless of our current economic mess — that helps keep women and children healthy and safe.