BEAUFORT — Town commissioners unanimously approved a 4.65-cent property tax increase for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins Monday, July 1.
Town commissioners approved the tax increase as part of the town’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget during their Monday evening regular session at the train depot.
Monday’s meeting marked the end of Beaufort’s budgeting season, which began in May when Town Manager John Day and staff formally presented the budget to commissioners and the public. Since then, the board has had three workshops, May 20 and 23 and June 3, to hash out particulars.
When town staff first presented the budget, it didn’t include a tax increase. That changed by the board’s first budget work session, when staff suggested a market adjustment to pay town employees.
To pay for the market adjustment, staff determined a tax increase would be necessary. Specifically, town commissioners will raise property taxes by 11.25%, or 4.65 cents.
Another tax increase of 3 cents is currently planned for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The current tax rate is 41.35 cents per $100 property valuation. The upcoming hike will be the second tax increase in as many fiscal years. Prior to the current fiscal year, commissioners approved a 3.6-cent tax increase earmarked for various infrastructure projects.
Unlike last year’s budget season, commissioners did not increase water and sewer rates for 2019-20.
“We’re not increasing utility rates,” said Mayor Rett Newton, who added that Beaufort’s utilities are high enough as is. “We finally have a stable platform for utilities and we’re working toward a stable platform for the general fund.”
According to the 2019-20 fee schedule, the in-town base water rate is $10.37, while the out-of-town rate is $20.74. The in-town and out-of-town variable water rates are $5.07 and $7.61, respectively.
The in-town sewer rate is $21.17 and the outside rate is $42.34. The variable in-town and out-of-town rate is $16.80 and $33.60, respectively.
Water and sewer tap fees are $700 and $750, respectively. These figures are subject to change depending on the size of a household’s tap.
Stormwater fees are $4 per month for each residential unit. Weekly, monthly and seasonal parking passes cost $25, $100 and $200, respectively.
The town’s general fund totals $9,037,171. Property taxes made up the bulk of revenues at $3,974,190. Permits and fees total $1,097,582.
Police and fire are among the two costliest expenditures at a respective $1,736,647 and $2,283,467.
The town’s utility fund will total $4,352,562. Of that amount, water and sewer total a respective $816,078 and $2,675,554.
Prior to approving the budget, commissioners allowed the public to give their opinion.
Beaufort resident Bucky Oliver spoke with commissioners about his concerns with raising the town’s taxes, in spite of being in favor of a market rate adjustment. He said regular tax increases could price people out of the town.
“It may accelerate things such as gentrification and maybe some hazardous effects in town development,” Mr. Oliver said.
Mayor Newton said he harbored similar concerns.
“One thing I will say (Mr. Oliver) is that I, too, share your concerns about gentrification,” Mayor Newton said. “I too share your concerns about increasing the tax rate.”
Town commissioners have maintained the market adjustment makes the tax increase necessary.
“We have to look at the welfare of the town,” Commissioner Ann Carter said, later adding that the board doesn’t make any decision lightly. “We especially have to look at the welfare of our personnel.”
Commissioner Sharon Harker said the decision was to ensure the town could retain employees.
“The town has raised taxes over the years for many good reasons,” Ms. Harker said. “One of the things that we overlooked is the employees that keep this town running.”
Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.