At annual retreat, county prepares for possible $4-million revenue dip

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At annual retreat, county prepares for possible $4-million revenue dip

By ANNE CHRISTNOVICH
achristnovich@beaufortgazette.com
Published Thursday, February 16, 2012   |  342 Words  |  

The county is preparing now for the possibility that the 2014 reassessment could bring in about $4 million less in revenue.

A presentation made by County Assessor Ed Hughes at the Beaufort County Council retreat Thursday projected the reassessment might show a 10 to 20 percent drop in property values overall.

On Thursday, staff sorted county services into "essential" and "non-essential" groups as a way to prepare for the potential revenue dip.

Essential services are functions or activities that ensure safety and security for residents and are required by federal law or county ordinance. Correctional services, law enforcement, emergency medical services and work on public roads are examples of these necessary services.

Non-essential items, according to county attorney Josh Gruber, don't have a funding or legal requirements. Offices like animal shelter, mosquito control or building maintenance fall into that category.

A list of 75 services was handed out so members could begin discussing cutting costs without raising taxes, a promise the council made during its last budget cycle, according to Gruber. Thirty-seven of those are required by the state or county.

County staff also recommended providing 13 non-essential services, including engineering, finance and emergency management services, that Gruber said would be cheaper for the county to do rather than outsource.

"It's our responsibility in this budget process and throughout the next year to say, 'Okay well what can we do?'" said County Council Chairman Weston Newton. "What of these services could we outsource that would be fee-based and cover themselves? ... . What services will we cut or reduce in order to match our expenditures to revenues rather than the other way around?"

For now, Gruber said the categories serve as only a starting point, rather than a ranking.

"It was not an examination of which program is more important," he said. "It was simply an examination of when the law says 'you will spend money on this' and does not give you the option not to."