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Budget review complete

Beaufort County’s leaders on Tuesday finished their review of County Manager Randell Woodruff’s recommended spending plan for the 2012-2013 fiscal year without making any changes in that plan.

At their final of three budget workshops, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners turned back a series of recommended budget cuts presented by Commissioner Hood Richardson and left Woodruff’s recommended $51.8 million spending plan intact.

The public will have the chance to comment on the budget at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the county’s administrative offices at 121 W. Third St. in Washington.

The board must approve the 2012-2013 budget before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

The commissioner’s review of Woodruff’s proposed 2012-2013 fiscal year budget took less time than their review of County Manager Paul Spruill’s recommended 2011-2012 budget that called for a five-cents-per-$100 valuation tax increase.

The commissioners needed four budget workshops and more than 10 hours of debate for that review.

Woodruff’s spending plan for 2012-2013 includes a property tax rate of 53 cents per $100, the same as the previous year.

Woodruff’s budget is an $870,394 decrease from the county’s $52.6 million budget for fiscal year 2011-2012.

But despite that, Woodruff has recommended about $2,265,417 in increased spending including $254,000 to pay for a two percent cost of living adjustment for county employees; $208,000 for the estimated debt payments for the new Allied Health Building at Beaufort County Community College; a $205,985 increase in BCCC’s operating budget, in part, to pay for the operating costs of that new building; $198,294 for principal in the debt service for the QuickStart II building at the Washington Industrial Park; $87,191 to pay for the increased cost of health insurance for county employees, and $44,000 to provide a one-half percent increase in contributions to county employee retirement plans.

The budget includes $1,044,646 in expansion requests for county departments, about half of the expansion items requested by county department heads.

Woodruff’s budget delays spending $126,300 for a new elevator at the county courthouse, $180,000 for parking lot repairs at the old Tideland Mental Health Building, $200,000 for demolition and removal of the old County Home building, $150,000 for additional overtime costs for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office and several requests for new employees.

The budget recommendation also funds only about half of a Department of Social Services request to expand a computerized system in place at the department.

Woodruff’s recommended budget includes an increase of $223,301 in funds for the schools’ operating budget — about half of the requested $500,000 increase. It also stops short of funding much of the schools’ capital budget request — recommending $962,060 for construction projects, also about half of the $1,674,637 requested by school leaders.

During a previous review of the expansion budget, some commissioners questioned whether hiring an additional deputy for the Sheriff’s Office — at a cost of $31,686 plus benefits — would eliminate the need for additional overtime at the office.

But on Tuesday, the commissioners took no action to add that item to the budget and took no action to fund additional overtime for the agency.

The commissioners turned back by a vote of 5-2 a recommendation from Richardson to eliminate some $2.01 million from the county budget by cutting some funds to the Economic Development Commission, the Beaufort Area Transportation, the Boys and Girls Club, the Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Community College and the county’s public schools, among others. Richardson and Commissioner Stan Deatherage cast votes in favor of the motion.

The commissioners also turned back by a 5-2 vote a recommendation from Richardson to eliminate funding to the EDC and a request to tie cost-of-living salary adjustments to county employees to payroll savings from job cuts. Richardson and Deatherage cast votes in favor of these motions.