Budget goes public at tonight’s meeting

Published 10:53 pm Sunday, May 14, 2017

The county manager’s recommended 2017-18 budget will be made public at tonight’s special-called meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

The meeting takes place at the County Administrative Office at 5:30 p.m.

According to county Manager Brian Alligood, the operational side of the budget is .7 percent less than this year’s approved budget of $56.7 million.

“There’s no tax increase, and we’re providing the same services but also with the expansion of EMS to Washington Township and the health department expansion at the jail,” Alligood said. “We’re literally doing more with less. Everybody always says that, but we literally are doing it.”

The proposed budget does dip into the county fund balance to the amount of $394,000 — nearly $600,000 less than the fund balance appropriation for 2016-17 — but Alligood said that amount will be offset by a significant decrease in debt service payments for past school bonds: $450,000 from one that’s being paid off; $10,000, from another that is being refinanced.

“That puts us into a really, really good position going into the 2018-19 budget, where we don’t have a hole to fill,” Alligood said.

A departure from last year’s budget is that the Alligood is recommending the county borrow $3 million for one-time capital projects, which will be paid off over a 10-year period. County commissioners have long weighed capital improvement projects for county facilities, a process Board of Commissioners Vice-Chairman Jerry Langley referred to as “kicking the can down the road” during last year’s budget negotiations. Alligood said the loan would cover four roof projects, funds for the old First Bank building’s renovation into the county financial center, fixing and paving the Tideland building parking lot, improvements at the Beaufort County Courthouse and its basement jail, and capital projects for Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College.

“It’s a good time to borrow money — the rates are still low,” Alligood said. “Although we like to do ‘pay-as-you-go’ projects, we don’t like to borrow money, but we are so far behind on these projects.”

Again, Alligood said debt service for the loan will be taken care of by the debt service that’s rolling off in the coming year.

During tonight’s meeting, the county manager will give a general overview of the proposed budget, then Chief Finance Officer Anita Radcliffe will present a revenue overview, followed by an expenditure summary by Alligood.

The following week, commissioners will hold meetings on May 22, May 23 and May 30 to iron out the final budget. Those meetings start at 5 p.m. on each of those dates. All meetings are open to the public. The County Administrative Office is located at 121 W. Third St., Washington.