County approves budget for 2021-22
After much deliberation Thursday about final changes to the ordinance, the Beaufort County Commissioners approved the county’s budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 with a 4-3 vote.
Commissioners Ed Booth, Jerry Langley, Frankie Waters and John Rebholz voted to approve the budget. Randy Walker, Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage opposed it.
The general fund budget totals $63,131,711. The distribution of that money includes $6,882,627 for general government; $17,371,061 for human services; $1,763,233 for community services; $19,806,578 for education; $13,720,171 for public safety; $2,750,991 for debt service; and $837,050 for transfers.
A $318,719 fund balance appropriation was used to balance the budget, one of the reasons Richardson gave as to why he wouldn’t vote to approve it.
Before Thursday’s meeting the commissioners had approved a 1% cost of living adjustment for county employees. The commissioners approved bumping that up to 2% on Thursday; Langley said his vote hinged on the approval of that increase. That 1% increase costs approximately $218,000; the county had $213,000 in its contingency fund, so the commissioners agreed to empty the contingency fund to cover most of the COLA increase and use the general fund to cover the difference.
The commissioners had previously voted to lower the county’s tax rate by 1 cent per $100 of valuation. Several attempts to decrease the rate even further, by anywhere from 1 to 3 cents were unsuccessful during the budget process.
“We did not give an acceptable tax decrease,” Richardson said. “When we have about $34 million, we only need $15 million to roll us, cash follow us from July until like October, and that gives us a surplus of, what, $19 million? And we can only give a paltry $700,000 back to the tax collectors? This is the public’s money. The public deserves to have this money.”
Rebholz, who made the motion in a previous meeting to reduce the tax rate by 1 cents, said the 1-cent decrease was “the right thing to do,” and said that dropping the tax rate by as many as an additional three cents would be “irresponsible.”