LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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By LOLITA HUCKABY
Photo by Bob Sofaly


Budgets set; take a breath before tax bills

BEAUFORT COUNTY – July 1 marks the start of a new fiscal year for local governments. And while we are still dealing with COVID-19 and the pros and cons of wearing face masks, at least we have the budgets in place to keep things going.

The Beaufort County Council passed its $129 million operating budget which may – or may not – include a salary increase for the 11 members. The increase requires two more votes of approval before the elected officials can take that check to the bank.

Beaufort City Council passed its $22.9 million budget after cutting plans for a $10 increase in the stormwater impact fees paid by property owners and a $20 per car fee to raise money for road repairs.

Port Royal passed a $7.2 million budget with some discussion about the future of the very popular skateboard park. Discussion, no decisions.

And the school board, whose annual budget talks with the County Council once produced major battles, cruised through with a $254 million budget and the only disagreements were with Auditor Jim Becker about the value of their mils.

School teachers, by the way, won’t get a pay increase unless it comes from state COVID-19 funds.

Stay tuned for October when you’ll get your property tax bill and you’ll see what these numbers mean to you.

There’s change in the wind

BEAUFORT COUNTY – One issue that wasn’t resolved in Beaufort County’s 2020 fiscal year was what to do about garbage.

The latest proposal, which still has to be approved by the full council, comes from the Public Works Committee which looks to close two of the 11 county convenience centers – the one called the Gate Center, off Paris Island Gateway and the one in Pritchardville, outside of Bluffton.

The proposal also includes reducing the days of operation to three days a week at the Coffin Point, Big Estate, Lobeco, Cuffy and Sheldon centers.

Operating hours at all the centers would be cut an hour from 7:30 am to 6 p.m., and a decal system for residents is being considered to keep non-tax paying folks from sneaking their garbage into our dumpsters.

County Council Chairman Joe Passiment, who lives in Sun City, is talking with Hilton Head Island officials, trying to convince them to provide their own curbside pickup, just like the City of Beaufort and Town of Port Royal do.

Other garbage disposal suggestions in the recent past included closing half of the 11 centers, and another idea was to switch to county-wide curbside collection. Both of those suggestions ended up in the can.

He said, she said

BEAUFORT COUNTY – Another piece of unfinished business before the County Council as it begins a new fiscal year involves personnel, and that’s a subject that’s likely to be around for a while.

Former Deputy Administrator Chris Inglese, who says he was unfairly dismissed last month by County Administrator Ashley Jacobs, has asked the County Council for a public review of his complaints. Jacobs, who said her former second-in-command resigned, is going through her own annual personnel review by her bosses, the County Council.

Council Chairman Passiment, when asked to comment, said both issues were personnel matters and would be handled in closed session. Could have guessed that.

Here’s to senior living

LADY’S ISLAND – Looks like Lady’s Island is going to get more gray.

The county Zoning Board of Appeals last week approved plans for CR Island Park – 70 units for independent living and 24 for assisted living. Charlotte, N.C., developers want to build the project on nine acres between Meridian Road and U.S. 21.

The ZBOA was asked to approve a special use permit for the project, and they did.

Correction

My apologies to Beaufort City Council members Mike McFee and Phil Cromer. It’s Mike McFee whose council seat is open this year; Cromer gets another two years.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer, I-95 and U.S. 17 voyager and legislative consultant with the online news service, LowCountry Inside Track, Ltd. She is a former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.

Above: The Beaufort County Council is considering closing the Gate Convenience Center on Castle Rock Road, as well as one in Pritchardville near Bluffton, as a cost cutting measure. Although not yet approved, council has also suggested the issuance of decals to be posted on cars of those wishing to use the remaining centers.