BEAUFORT, S.C. (May 22, 2023) – The City of Beaufort’s Fiscal Year 2024 Consolidated Budget will be presented to City Council for its first reading on Tuesday, May 23, at 7 p.m. There will be a Public Hearing on the budget prior to the first reading.
For the first time, the annual budget includes a comprehensive Capital Projects budget for FY2024. Details of the $57.6 million budget were presented at several City Council work sessions in April and May, where separate presentations were made on revenues, expenses, and capital projects. Public comment was invited at all these sessions.
The budget includes an overall millage rate of 73.9, a reduction of 4.3 mills compared to FY2023, as the value of a mill has increased from $108,764 to $128,731 due to Beaufort County’s quadrennial reassessment. This means that property taxes will be essentially flat for property owners in the coming year.
Among the highlights of the budget:
- The addition of five new FTEs (full-time equivalent employees), including a GIS (Geographical Information Systems) manager and three school resource officers (two are state funded). The Community Development Department plans to hire a staff architect, which will reduce plan review outsourcing costs significantly. The budget also includes a provision for a part-time records manager in the Police Department.
- A cost-of-living pay increase for employees of 5% and a 2% merit increase pool. This will help ensure that the City remains a competitive employer and will help retain talented employees, City Manager Scott Marshall said in a letter on the budget to City Council.
- New software that will make it easier to submit building and development plans; a new GIS system that will make it easy to get information on new projects and a host of other information relevant to the City of Beaufort; a mobile app to make it easier to submit issues to Public Works and Code Enforcement; and a print newsletter mailed twice a year to all residences and businesses in Beaufort.
“The combination of the GIS position and new mapping capability will allow us to greatly improve our transparency regarding the status of applications for permits, capital projects, infrastructure networks and much more,” Marshall noted in his letter.
The General Fund is the main operating fund of the City. Its primary sources of revenue are property taxes, licenses and permit revenues, franchise fees, intergovernmental revenues, and general charges for services.
Special Revenue Funds
The City of Beaufort has various special funds that also comprise parts of its budget, aside from the General Fund. These include the Parks & Tourism Fund, State Accommodations Fund, Fire Impact Fund, Stormwater Fund, TIF II Fund, Capital Projects Fund, and American Rescue Plan Fund (ARPA).
Over the last year, the City of Beaufort has experienced a growth in revenue, of which the largest source is property taxes, which comprise 40% of Beaufort’s revenue. And with the increase in commercial and residential development in the City, Beaufort’s revenue is growing -- from business licenses, building permits, and fire impact fees. The City has also seen a growth in tourism and visitors, leading to more revenue from Accommodations and Hospitality taxes.
The Fee Schedule for FY2024 includes a few increases. The Residential Solid Waste Fee will increase from $20 to $22.50 per month. This is due to a Consumer Price Index escalator clause in the City contract with Capital Waste Services, the company that provides waste and recycling services to City residents and businesses. Rates for off-duty police officers will increase from $50 to $60 per hour, comparable to other local law enforcement agencies. Park rental fees will be added for the newly opened Whitehall Park.
The General Fund forecasts expenses of $23.6 million for FY2024, of which the biggest portion is employee pay and benefits, which together comprise 57% of the City’s expenses. Various expenses are decreasing, offsetting increases to salaries and benefits.
For the first time, capital projects spending is included in the Consolidated Budget. Previously, these were tracked separately through individual project budgets. The City has budgeted $27.1 million for capital projects for FY2024. “Adding capital projects funding to our Consolidated Budget provides an additional degree of transparency regarding the City’s use of funds for expensive capital construction costs,” Marshall said in his letter to City Council. “It also introduces another layer of accountability.”
Among the highlights:
- Stormwater: Work will begin on major stormwater drainage projects on Calhoun Street; Charles, Craven and Port Republic streets; King Street, and Bayard Street, paid for by various grants and ARPA (American Rescue Plan) funds.
- Parks: Major improvements to Southside and Washington Street parks, paid through grants and revenue bonds. Both of these projects are expected to be completed within the next fiscal year.
- Streetscapes: A streetscape/stormwater project will be completed on Allison Road, which includes the undergrounding of utilities. This is being paid for through grants, ARPA funding, and other funds previously set aside for the project.
- Parallel Road: The process of property and easement acquisition will begin in FY24 to support the construction of a parallel road to help divert traffic from Boundary Street. This is joint project with Beaufort County and is expected to be funded through a combination of revenue to include TIF II fund balance, impact fees and various other funding sources over the life of the project.
The second and final reading of the budget is scheduled for the City Council Regular Meeting on June 13. The budget will go into effect on July 1.