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County OKs budget

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, with a 5-2 vote, on Monday approved the county’s 2012-2013 budget while making $258,832 in cuts to County Manager Randell Woodruff’s recommended spending plan.

As a result of Monday’s action, the county’s taxpayers will face no increase in their property tax rate during the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1. The property-tax rate of 53 cents per $100 valuation will remain the same as the current fiscal year’s tax rate.

Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson voted against the plan.

The vote came after a public hearing on the proposed 2012-2013 budget, during which two speakers asked the commissioners to reduce the $51.8-million spending plan.

“Every year, it’s the same waste that we’ve had before,” said Don Dixon in remarks during the public hearing. “It’s easy to get $2 million out of that budget. If not that, why not $1 million? If not that, why not a half million?”

Buzz Cayton, chairman of the Beaufort Patriot Tea Party, also asked the commissioners to make more cuts to the budget.

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

Some of his proposed $2,265,417 in increased spending did not survive Monday’s vote.

As part of their budget vote, the commissioners approved a plan presented by Commissioner Jay McRoy to trim some increased spending to give the commissioners the funds they will need to pay for technology improvements in the county’s tax offices without having to dip further into savings.

McRoy’s plan eliminates funding for a new employee and new vehicle for animal control, a new position and vehicle for environmental health and a new vehicle for county inspections as recommended by Woodruff — for an estimated savings of $134,820.

McRoy’s plan also calls for no increase in contributions to county employee retirement plans at an estimated savings of $44,404, but it left intact Woodruff’s recommended 2 percent cost-of-living adjustments for county employees.

His plan calls for an estimated cut of $37,000 in contracted maintenance expenses for the county’s public buildings, but it left intact the addition of one employee to the county maintenance staff.

The changes also include a $59,000 cut in appropriations for over-time hours in the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, but they restore one full-time patrol position at a cost of $45,474.

The revised budget presented by McRoy also includes a cut of $23,301 in Woodruff’s recommended $223,301 increase in operating expenses for the county’s schools and a cut of $5,781 in Woodruff’s recommended $180,781 increase in operating expenses for Beaufort County Community College.

The commissioners also approved — for the second year in a row — a list of construction projects for the county’s schools, which was presented by McRoy.

Woodruff’s recommended spending plan appropriated $962,060 for Beaufort County Schools capital projects — about half of the $1,674,637 requested by school leaders.

McRoy’s list eliminates $600,000 in spending for a new multi-purpose room at Eastern Elementary School, $59,950 for electrical upgrades at the Ed Tech Center, $45,000 to improve traffic flow at Chocowinity Middle School, $15,300 for roof repairs at a Northside High School track and football building and $10,000 for a new canopy at Bath Elementary School.

Richardson criticized the spending plan because — among other reasons — it does not include any pro-rata funding for an early revaluation of the county’s property as discussed by the commissioners, it delays spending on a new elevator at the county courthouse and it delays demolition of the old County Home.

He also said the spending plan approved by the board does not include enough cuts to offset these needs.

“McRoy’s savings are a scratch when we need a torpedo,” he said.

All commissioners attended the meeting.