Officials on hot seat

Published 12:40 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

County Manager Paul Spruill (under screen, wearing red tie) reviews his proposed budget for the county for the upcoming 2011-2012 fiscal year. (WDN Photo/Betty Mitchell Gray)

Vote to increase taxes may result in removal of GOP members

The Republican members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners were presented an ultimatum regarding the county’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget from other county Republicans on Monday.

The ultimatum: Vote for a tax increase and face a concerted effort from fellow party members to replace them on the county’s governing board.

“No true Republican would vote for a tax increase while the people are hurting like they are hurting now,” said Ashley Woolard of the Old Ford community north of Washington. Woolard, a Republican, ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Congress from the 1st Congressional District in 2010.

Speaking to the four GOP members of the county board, he said that if any one of them votes for a tax increase, he “will not be elected to anything in this county ever again.”

Woolard’s remarks were echoed by six others – most of them fellow Republicans – who threatened to turn out any members of GOP party who vote for a tax increase.

Commissioners Stan Deatherage, Al Klemm, Jay McRoy and Hood Richardson are Republicans. Board Chairman Jerry Langley and Commissioners Ed Booth and Robert Cayton are Democrats.

Buzz Cayton, representing the Beaufort Patriot Tea Party, said an increase in property taxes “would hurt small businesses and poor people.”

Said Cayton: “If you’re not willing to protect the people who put you in office, then we’ll find people who will.”

Cayton and Woolard were two of about 20 people who attended the board’s meeting to hear County Manager Paul Spruill’s recommended budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Despite reducing overall spending by $1,684,759 from the current fiscal year, Spruill’s proposed budget of $50,945,552 contains a recommended five cents per $100 valuation property-tax increase.

After hearing the public’s comments about the budget proposal, the commissioners rejected a motion by Richardson to send the budget back to Spruill for him to rewrite it with no increase in taxes. Deatherage joined Richardson in voting for the motion. The other commissioners voted against it.

“None of the big players are taking any big cuts,” Richardson said.

Other commissioners said they wanted time to look at the budget and decide what cuts they want to make.

“It’s our turn to look at it,” McRoy said.

In other business, the board:

  • Unanimously approved 10 resolutions governing administrative guidelines and policies for Community Development Block Grant Economic Recovery and Scattered Site programs. Two of the policies were revised to include provisions that all new construction contractors use local businesses for their supplies and local subcontractors when possible, said Reed Whitesell of Holland Consulting Planners Inc.
  • Voted 5-2 to approve $6,748.42 in travel requests, with Deatherage and Richardson dissenting. The travel requests included $1,424 for Deatherage and Richardson to attend an N.C. Association of County Commissioners meeting in Concord.
  • Voted unanimously to approve a temporary building permit for use of an Episcopal church in the Yeatesville community to Gene and Jane Grant on their property not to exceed 30 events within a calendar year on the condition that one portable toilet be available for every 20 people attending events at the church.
  • Voted unanimously for the following appointments: Tim Melton to the Beaufort County Jury Commission and Russell Smith to the Beaufort County Community College Board of Trustees.
  • Voted unanimously to give the Town of Belhaven the authority to approve a fireworks permit for events within the town and its extraterritorial jurisdiction for two years.
  • Voted unanimously to release the surety bond for Beaufort Bluff development.
  • Heard a report from Roy Wilson, executive director, and Leza Wainwright, chief operating officer, of East Carolina Behavioral Health, regarding services provided by the agency. The agency uses the $173,599 received from Beaufort County for recovery services and law-enforcement training in the county, the commissioners were told.
  • Held a public hearing but received no comments on a Community Development Block Grant Housing and Development application. The purpose of the public hearing was to discuss the county’s intent to submit an application for CDBG funds to provide infrastructure improvements for the Alderbrook Point multi-family housing project in Washington. A public hearing regarding that specific project will be held next month.

All commissioners attended the meeting.