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Participation starts now

Local government is important. The decisions made at the local level directly impact every resident of a jurisdiction. These local officials — they could be friends, neighbors, members of your congregation — are elected to act in the best interests of all their constituents, who are sometimes people they see on a day to day basis.

Currently, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners is creating the 2018/2019 budget for the county. That means seven people are deciding, based on county Manager Brian Alligood’s proposed budget, how much money the county will spend on what for the next fiscal year. Alligood’s proposed budget is a continuation budget, which means that in this proposed budget, the same programs are funded to provide the same services to county residents as this fiscal year’s budget did.

This year, it’s a little harder to do so, because the property tax revaluation done every eight years found that property values have dropped overall in Beaufort County. If property values are lower in the county, the county will be collecting less property tax. With less collected comes the need to make up the difference to continue providing the same services. In response, this budget calls for an increase in property tax by 3 cents, so the county remains revenue neutral — they’ll collect the same amount of property taxes next fiscal year as they did this year.

That increase is just to get the county back on a level playing field, but it’s not the only increase to taxes, however. The 3-cents increase, while ensuring the county collects the same amount in property tax, does not cover the gap between what it costs to provide the same services to county residents from the last budget to this one. So, there’s another 2-cents increase in property taxes to make it up.

Technically, property tax is going up by 5 cents in the county, from 55 cents per $100 valuation to 60 cents per $100 valuation. Might seem like quite a jump, but most property owners’ taxes have gone down with the new valuation. The proposed 60 cents per $100 valuation reverts back to the same rate at which county property owners were taxed in 2008/2009, right before the last revaluation sent property values skyrocketing just as the real estate market was about to tank.

Beaufort County’s property taxes, out of 100 counties in the state, rank 31st lowest. As of this fiscal year, there were 69 counties with higher property tax rates in the state.

But nobody likes to pay more tax. Participation is the benefit of local government: if a person doesn’t agree with tax hikes or budgets cut, they can go to the meetings and learn why the seven-member commissioners’ board makes the decisions it does.

Tomorrow night is the culmination of the budget workshop sessions where commissioners will iron out the next budget, whether it’s higher, lower or the same as the manager’s proposed budget. They’ll weigh raising taxes that every property owner in the county must pay so the county can provide services for every resident.

The public is invited, and the public is you.