LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

in Contributors/Lolita Huckaby/News by

Whoa-ho! Budget Talks!

BEAUFORT – It’s budget time for local governments. 

And while the prospects of studying spread sheets and data reports may strike some as interesting as watching grass grow, this is where the proverbial rubber hits the road in terms of setting taxes which will cover desired services while keeping taxes down so more folks will flock down here for our “cheap taxes.” 

(According to a website called Wallethub.com, South Carolina has the sixth lowest property taxes in the country, based on median home prices. But on the other hand, Tax-Rates.org reports Beaufort County collected the highest annual property taxes in the state. Chesterfield has lowest property taxes if you’re considering a move for that one reason.) 

All these numbers aside, watching local elected officials set a spending plan for the coming year is not an easy process, although every year the individual finance officers try new presentations to make understanding easier. 

Beaufort County School District, for example, this year decided to host a YouTube budget forum – https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=WDXEM7HLkIU&t=6s – so citizens can see where the proposed $274.2 million will be spent. 

Taxpayers, spectators to the process, can take a look at budget documents on the county and municipalities websites. You can watch the process on the County Channel or Facebook. 

You only have until the end of June because the spending plans have to be finished by July 1, the start of a new fiscal year. 

The bottom line? 

We want to know what the bill is going to be in the fall … and will city residents still get garbage pickup? Will we have enough police officers and fire personnel to protect the growing number of homes being built? 


Former County Administrator heads north 

BEAUFORT – In case you wondering who’s calling the shots over the Beaufort County budget…and operations … it’s not Ashley Jacobs. 

Jacobs “resigned” last October over friction with the County Council, but she’s still on the county payroll, due to her separation agreement. That all changes as of mid- June when she goes to work for the Wake County, N.C., government as information and innovation officer. 

Beaufort County is now being directed by no-longer-interim Administrator Eric Greenway, who was previously planning director. 


Update on downtown lawsuits 

BEAUFORT – Responses to a lawsuit challenging plans for a Craven Street parking garage, Scott Street hotel and Charles Street apartment building have been filed moving legal action on the developments a step further. 

Columbia attorneys Benjamin Nicholson and Wade Leach, representing Dick Stewart’s 303 Associates and the Beaufort Inn, in a response to the suit filed by Graham Trask, argue the projects are grandfathered under the city’s development code and, among other things, the plaintiff lacks legal standing in the issue. 

Trask owns several properties in the downtown area, including lots adjacent to the proposed four-story hotel. 

The city’s response from attorney Bill Harvey contends the plaintiff, Trask, knew about the plans and did not object to them earlier. 

The National Park Service has also entered into the debate with the announcement that it plans to look into whether the city’s designation on the National Register of Historic Places is being threatened by the proposed building. 

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.