Commissioners begin budget’s ‘annual festival’|Richardson criticizes money spent on the arts council and city recreation departments

Published 8:28 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Staff Writer

At its next meeting, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners will decide which charitable groups and community organizations receive county funding in the coming fiscal year.
The board began its initial budget discussion Wednesday morning with a ritual County Manager Paul Spruill jokingly dubbed “your annual festival” on non-profit funding.
Commissioner Hood Richardson was outspoken in his opposition to most of the funding, and said he thinks the total should be cut roughly in half to about $210,000.
The commissioners opened discussion on community athletic programs.
Richardson argued that the county shouldn’t fund them. Other commissioners said many residents of unincorporated areas of the county use the programs, so funding them is worthwhile.
Richardson also particularly criticized the Beaufort County Arts Council, which he called “the wealthiest people in town.”
Richardson criticized the group for using the money for programs in the schools.
“How many rat holes do we need in order to make these things work?” he asked.
In other action, Wednesday, Spruill updated the board on anticipated revenue in the coming year.
“The story of this budget is revenues bleeding unlike they ever have before,” he said.
To hold the tax rate down, the county will have to use $1.996 million in savings, Spruill said.
And the group discussed water rates, which are expected to rise in District VI, which is unincorporated Chocowinity. The county will also add a late fee of $4, or four percent of the bill, whichever is larger, for all water districts.
Board Commissioner Jay McRoy said county staff doesn’t respond quickly enough when the public calls in leaks in the water system.
“That causes a lot of ill-will with the public,” he said.