Beaufort Today -

Beaufort: City budget requires no tax hike

Beaufort residents will not see an increase in property taxes this year as officials say City Council has strategically planned for slow, steady growth to cover cost increases for 2017-18.

The $21,199,596 budget was scheduled to go before council for its first reading Tuesday after press time. The second reading will take place June 27.

The 73.67 millage rate would remain the same under the proposed budget. The city estimates it will bring in 7.8 percent more revenue to cover staff increases, resources for a new fire station shared with Port Royal and a 2 percent increase in the state pension contribution.

“The budget is balanced and provides for increases in core services and the building of sustainable economic development programs without increasing property, debt, hospitality and accommodations taxes, refuse or stormwater fees,” City Manager Bill Prokop said.

However, the city will have to address $4 million in necessary stormwater projects in the near future. Prokop said stormwater fees do not cover the city’s needs and council will have to develop a financial plan in the next fiscal year.

Councilman Stephen Murray said the budgeting process was easier this year because of strategic planning that started in January.

“This year, we got feedback from residents, department heads, boards and commissions and really reached out to get a sampling of opinions to see where the city should go,” Murray said.

“Everyone was involved in the process, and from there Bill and the department heads looked at the goals and how those could be implemented into the services city provides.”

Finance director Kathy Todd said the budget maintains adequate reserves in the fund balance to ensure the city’s fiscal integrity and meet the leading credit rating agencies’ criteria.

“The proposed budget includes resources that will allow the city to provide a high level of public safety services to all our residents, including the newly annexed areas,” Todd said.

The budget also “begins to address a significant backlog of existing infrastructure and facility deficiencies,” she said, “as well as initiating a capital leasing program for the fleet and heavy equipment needs for the aging vehicle stock.”

The recommended budget can be viewed at www.cityofbeaufort.org.

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