All show, no substance

Published 12:25 am Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Beaufort County, 1 cent on the property tax rate equals nearly $530,000.

To date, the Beaufort County commissioners have shaved $65,112 off County Manager Paul Spruill’s draft budget.

Spruill’s total proposed spending plan for fiscal year 2011-2012 is approximately $50.1 million.

Spruill has asked his board to consider raising the property tax rate from 50 cents per $100 valuation to 55 cents per $100 valuation.

To cut 1 cent from the tax rate, the commissioners would have to take around $530,000 in spending out of the budget.

By law, the board must adopt a budget by July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

It came as no surprise when a majority of the board opted to slash funding for outside nonprofits like the Beaufort County Arts Council and Literacy Volunteers of Beaufort County.

Soft targets often take the first hits.

It’s less politically expedient to start picking away at big items in the budget.

Despite the nonprofit cuts called for through informal “straw votes” instructing the county manager to adjust his recommended budget, so far the commissioners have been unable to take 1 cent off the tax rate.

In order to subtract that penny, the board would have to make cringe-inducing and politically unpopular reductions in county services.

Budget cuts are easy to talk about but difficult to make.

Sometimes show trumps substance as board members crunch the numbers.

And we have yet to see any commissioner pledge to forgo his county stipend or other perquisites until this fiscal crisis passes.

Now that would be symbolism with teeth.