The 2024-25 Beaufort County budget and the stock market

Published 8:04 am Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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The County Manager’s Recommended Fiscal Year 2024-2025 Budget was released May 13 to the Board of Commissioners. I promptly downloaded it to my computer so I could have a copy to review.

When I was a commissioner, I always looked forward to reviewing the manager’s recommended budget and still do. I’m just an interested citizen at this point.

The recommended budget document is 488 pages with detailed information on just about everything and a breakdown by department. Property and sales taxes are the largest source of revenue.

Education is 31%, human services is 28%, and public safety is 26%. The three put together equal 85% of the total general fund budget. The number of county employees remains stable at 392.

There is no recommended tax increase. The last change in the tax rate was in the 2021-22 budget when the tax rate was cut by a penny. The recommended general fund budget is $75,204,796. It’s 3.9 percent higher than this year’s budget mostly due to inflation.

The economy has remained strong across the country. Most people won’t believe this because of the high inflation the United States has endured. It is currently 3.4 percent but below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent.

The Fed has resisted lowering the interest rate because of sticky inflation. People see the effects of inflation every time they go to a grocery or home improvement store. People eventually become resistant to high prices and become more selective or put some things off completely.

Those on a fixed budget are particularly impacted by inflation.

Nobody can normally predict what’s going to happen to the stock market but major events such as the bombing of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and banking crisis of 2008 resulted in long downturns.

When Covid started, the stock market sunk dramatically. $5.8 trillion in Covid spending by the Trump and Biden administrations helped it recover quickly and I believe is the major cause of the high inflation we have endured. I believe the government overdid the spending and is still doing it.

Due to changes in the economy, Beaufort County goes through good periods and bad. The taxpayers of Beaufort County benefited from a period of stable tax rates the last couple of years. I see that trend continuing.

Being an election year, the tax rate could even go down again. Elections cause things to happen.

Generally, the county has benefited from good government for many years. Beaufort County has the 19th lowest effective tax rate of the 100 counties in North Carolina. Washington County, right next to us, is ranked 100th and has the highest effective tax rate.

Does this mean that Beaufort County is exceptional? No, it means Beaufort County has an effective conservative government with a reasonable tax rate compared to other counties. Can it get better?

Yes, things can always get better but they also can get worse. And, of course, there are always political differences between elected officials.

Future objectives include building the new school, and bringing growth and increased prosperity to Beaufort County.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.