County budget accounts for economic uncertainty

Published 4:35 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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The county’s recommended 2020-2021 budget has been delivered to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, and the uncertainty of the economic impact of COVID-19 is addressed.

“It is an understatement to say that these are unprecedented times. However, Beaufort County is not alone in facing this threat as the COVID-19 pandemic is taking lives and destroying economies across North Carolina, the United States and the world,” the budget’s summary by Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood reads. “The restarting of local, state and world economies in FY 20-21 will be important factors in the performance of this budget. Unfortunately, at this time we are making estimates based on events for which we have no control and have no real historical analysis to draw from. Our sales tax numbers provide an additional challenge for us as they lag collection to distribution by three months. Because of this we are likely to be in December before we are able to validate our estimates to actuals.”

Because of the uncertainty regarding decreased revenue estimates, county staff cut recommended budget expenditures below prior years’ levels in an effort to balance the projected decreases. Sales and other taxes account for 14.6% of total county revenues.

Highlights of the budget including:

  • The recommended budget maintains the county ad valorem tax rate at $0.635 for each $100 of assessed valuation. At the assumed collection rate, this will generate approximately $36.6M in property tax revenue.
  • The recommended budget maintains all county services and programs provided in the prior year.
  • The FY 20-21 recommended general fund budget of $59,227,062, is $411,681 less than the original FY 19-20 budget.
  • The recommended budget maintains the public school system (community college and K-12) funding at prior year levels. The county received the FY 20-21 K-12 school system budget request on May 12, 2020, after the recommended budget had been completed. The K-12 school system request shows the use of one-time funding for recurring costs that may set the stage for a tax increase in the next fiscal year to maintain the current funding level. The Board will need to review this request carefully.
  • The recommended budget continues to fund the Capital Improvements Fund with $0.01 of projected property tax revenue as established in the FY 19-20 budget. In May 2020, the Board voted to advance a portion of the FY 20-21 capital funding for the courthouse renovation project and these funds will be adjusted after the adoption of the FY 20-21 budget.
  • The recommended budget maintains the prior year fire and EMS tax rates in all districts.
  • The recommended budget increases the solid waste fee by $5 to offset the costs of increasing solid waste tonnage and to help pay for needed maintenance at waste collection sites.
  • The recommend budget increases the water rates by 3% in accordance with the long-term funding plan established and approved by the Board in FY 18-19. This is also the third year of the 5-year plan to equalize rates across all districts due to the consolidation of the districts into one operation fund.
  • The recommended budget maintains an administrative charge to enterprise funds to help offset the costs to the General Fund for providing services to the enterprise funds. The administrative charge is based on a per unit fee specific to the services provided to the enterprise funds.
  • The recommended budget appropriates $0 in General Fund fund balance.

There was one casualty of the pandemic in this year’s budget — easing up county employees’ salaries to levels comparable to salaries in similar counties, after a paid study  concluded that some Beaufort County positions were not competitively salaried.

“Beaufort County was poised for a great FY 19-20 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Revenues were up

and programs such as the implementation of the salary study were on track to be started. Unfortunately,

due to revenue uncertainty, these programs will be delayed again. Our hope is that the economy will rebound quickly in the second half of FY 20-21 and these programs can move forward,” Alligood wrote.

County commissioners will use the manager’s recommended budget as a launching point for budget negotiations. Budget workshops began this week, and the budget is expected to be finalized by May 28. A public hearing regarding the budget will be held at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting June 1.

The recommended budget can be found on the county website at or at the Beaufort County Administrative Office, 121 W. Third St., Washington.