Commissioners approve budget|County keeps taxes steady, uses savings

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, May 28, 2009

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners adopted a budget Wednesday morning that will keep the county’s property-tax rate steady in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voted against the budget because it calls for the county to use some of its savings to keep the tax rate at its current level.
“This is an unbalanced budget,” said Richardson.
Traditionally, previous county budgets called for spending some savings, but the county avoided spending that money during the fiscal years covered by those budgets. In the coming fiscal year, that’s unlikely to be the case, said County Manager Paul Spruill. The budget includes about $1.9 million of the county’s savings, also known as a fund balance.
At earlier budget-related meetings, Spruill explained that sales-tax revenues and other revenues have plunged, putting the county in a grim financial hole.
Richardson proposed a series of cuts that would have trimmed about $2 million from the budget by slashing funding to charitable organizations and nonprofit groups, a health clinic, economic development, the sheriff’s office, the register of deeds’ office and other county departments.
But only Deatherage joined Richardson in backing the proposal. Commissioners Jay McRoy, Jerry Langley, Robert Cayton and Al Klemm voted for a budget that trims allocations for some charities and gives some money to local food pantry Eagle’s Wings, but it largely mirrors the spending plan proposed by Spruill.
Spruill said his task now shifts from eliminating line items in the budget to trying to reduce expenditures throughout the next fiscal year in an effort to use as little of the $1.9 million as possible.
The commissioners also said they expect to have to revisit the budget in the fall, once the state government in Raleigh finally finishes its budget, which could take certain revenues from the counties.
“I think they’re going to get us,” Klemm said.