Board of Commissioners makes tough but fair budget decisions

Published 10:05 pm Saturday, May 23, 2009

By Staff
As the Daily News’ Thursday story suggested, Wednesday was indeed a bad day to be a Beaufort County-funded charity.
During one of its initial budget meetings Wednesday, the county’s Board of Commissioners cut contributions to some groups it helps fund as it worked through its proposed budget for the fiscal year beginning in July.
The majority of commissioners showed admirable restraint as they diced and spliced monetary appropriations in an effort to help stabilize the county’s miserable budget forecast.
Though the commission slashed $8,000 from its contribution to the Beaufort County Arts Council — which falls from $25,000 this year to $17,000 next year — it managed to spare funding to such organizations as the Food Bank of the Albemarle and the Washington Community Care Coalition.
The food bank and coalition are critical lifelines for the needy of our area, and from our point of view, nothing defines the stature of a community more than the lengths it goes to help those in need.
Most of the board members seem to understand this.
Given the instability of the economy, though, commissioners were forced to make some other hard decisions.
The board voted to cut its contribution to the U.S. Highway 17 Association by $10,000, reduced funding for literacy volunteers by half and pared its contribution to the BHM Library to last year’s level.
Recent layoffs from the county’s workforce highlight the severity of the current budget mess, a fact verbalized at the meeting by Commissioner Stan Deatherage, who with Commissioner Hood Richardson wanted to cut more from the arts council budget.
It’s a point well taken: When people are losing their jobs, every budget item must be scrutinized extra carefully.
There’s only so much money to go around and many outstretched hands waiting to receive it.
But indiscriminately docking organizations just because some think they’re frivolous or unnecessary is nearsighted and narrow minded.
Events sponsored by the Beaufort County Arts Council, and historical entities such as the Aurora Fossil Museum and the Belhaven Memorial Museum, to name just a few, help make our area the fascinating place it is.
We applaud the commissioners for doing their best to reasonably and compassionately review their funding options and refusing to let knee-jerk reactions persuade them.