Budget: solid waste fees increase, schools budget decreases

Published 7:55 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2020

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The county is well on its way to passing the 2020-21 budget.

Coming in at $59,227,062, the budget is $411,000 less than last year’s starting budget, according to Beaufort County Manager Brian Alligood.

A budget public hearing held Monday night, during the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners regularly scheduled meeting, had no speakers. Alligood said the next step is for county staff to draw up a budget ordinance for the board’s review at a special-called meeting next Monday. If there are no remaining issues, it will likely be approved then.

During the commissioners’ budget workshops, few things changed in the manager’s recommended budget presented to commissioners mid-May. According to Alligood, the budget is all but finalized, with the exception of the amount to be allocated for Beaufort County Schools’ current expenses. BCS did not turn in its budget request until May 12, after the recommended budget was complete; the BCS allocation was set in that budget at $14,767,140 — the same as last fiscal year.

Commissioners did reduce BCS current expenses by $180,000, as the average daily membership — the number by which the state determines local funding — has decreased. Since the state pays for the majority of teaching positions, while the county picks up supplements for pay some staff locally, which include teaching assistants and vice principals, the $180,000 decrease by the state must be reflected in the county’s schools’ budget.

“The more students you have, the more teachers you have and when you start losing students, you start losing teachers paid for by the state,” Alligood said.

Alligood said a variety of factors could be responsible for the drop in enrollment in local public schools.

“There may more students that are going to charter schools. There may be students that are going to private schools; more kids going out of the county; home school,” Alligood said. “There may be less kids, but the amount of kids you do have, there’s also going to be more competition for who’s going to educate those kids. … It’s been on that trajectory ever since I’ve been here.”

The $180,000 cut from BCS’ current expenses will be put in a contingency fund, rather than cut from the budget altogether, in case the board needs to reconsider its use, Alligood said.

The only other notable change is commissioners increased solid waste fees from $155 to $165 per year, an increase of $10. Alligood said the decision was based on work that needs to be done at some of the county’s convenience sites, as well as the increased cost of disposal, which is contracted out to Republic Services.