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MCAS Beaufort F-35B topic of LIBPA meeting 

At the February meeting of the Lady’s Island Business and Professional Association (LIBPA), representatives from the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort will present an overview of the preparations being made to facilitate the 2014 arrival of the F-35B aircraft and aspects of its potential impact on the base and the community. The meeting will be held at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 11 at the Beaufort County Association of Realtors in the Palmetto Business Park on Lady’s Island Drive and is open to the public.

This summer, in support of MCAS Beaufort’s new role as a training site for F-35B pilots, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 is scheduled to move from Eglin Air Force Base to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort where it will serve as a training squadron. Its arrival will mark the introduction of the F-35B aircraft to the air station and the Beaufort area. The F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter is the next generation of fighter aircraft for all United States air forces and the Marine Corps version of the aircraft. It is scheduled to replace the F/A-18 Hornet, as well as the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II and the EA-6B Prowler. At a date to be determined, another training squadron will be located at the base and the three F/A- 18 Hornet Combat Squadrons presently at MCAS Beaufort will transition to the F-35B aircraft.

The following subjects have been requested to be included in the presentation:

• Is there a tentative timeline for the initiation of training of F-35B pilots at MCAS Beaufort?

• What is the approximate class size and duration of the training program?

• What is the anticipated increase in the number of flights compared to the present time?

• Are significant changes from the present AICUZ (Air Installation Compatible Use Zone) anticipated for Lady’s Island?

• Are there plans for an alternate airfield to facilitate short takeoff and vertical landing training?

• Are budgetary cuts anticipated to reduce the total number of Marine Corps F-35B squadrons?

Tax board makes progress in appeal cases 

In three months, the restructured Beaufort County Tax Equalization Board has heard more than 100 appeals, significantly reducing the backlog of cases. The board has conferences with taxpayers challenging their assessed property value.

In February of 2013, conferences with Beaufort County taxpayers were suspended while the board expanded from 7 to 15 members. This expansion allowed the members to split into multiple conference panels maximizing the number of cases being heard.

“Having members hear cases both North of the Broad and South of the Broad on the same night significantly helped us hear more appeals and ultimately help the property owners of Beaufort County,” said Chairman of the Tax Equalization Board Robert Cummins Jr.

The restructured board held its first conferences on October 30, 2013. At that time, the board had 132 appeals on file. A total of 10 conferences have taken place and by January there were approximately 23 remaining appeals to be heard.