CRUNCH TIME: Public hearing up for county budget

Published 9:24 pm Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday night, the seven Beaufort County Commissioners met for their third and, perhaps, final budget workshop for the next fiscal year. Now, residents are invited to take part in the process via a public hearing at the commissioners’ next meeting.

“Certainly we want the public to participate in this process because it does affect them,” said Assistant County Manager Jim Chrisman. “Certainly the Board of Commissioners has done a good job in going through the budget material, making notations along the way. There have been some adjustments, but primarily what they are looking at, a lot of their discussions have been about policy—whether or not policy needs to be put in place.”

The public hearing for the proposed 2014-15 budget is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. in Room 111 in the County Administration office. According to County Clerk Sharon “JoJo” Singleton, some budgets require a bit more space for the public hearing, but not this one, as there’s very little in the budget that’s started local taxpayers talking, largely because tax rates are not increasing, she said.

The county manager’s proposed budget has increased by $271,408 overall, and recommends a combined increase of $700,000 in Capital Outlay funds for Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College — one of the pressing issues for BCS is a chiller (industrial air conditioning) for Washington High School; for BCCC, it’s HVAC and roofing projects. But even those significant changes don’t represent a need to raise taxes, Chrisman said.

“We had a number of decreases in the budget, as well,” Chrisman said.

Chrisman explained that the county refinanced debt on the school bonds last year, which means a savings of about $60,000 a year; a decrease in tonnage at the landfill, has led to a decrease in the solid waste budget; a decrease in budget requests from outside agencies; and one-time costs of past software upgrades designed to improve county efficiency are falling off the budget.

That the budget calls for no new taxes and a continuation of existing services likely means a quiet public hearing Monday night, according to Chrisman.

The County Administration office is located at 121 West Third Street, Washington.