Beaufort County Council has list of capital improvements, no funding

zmurdock@beaufortgazette.comMarch 31, 2014 

A.J. Montgomery and Andrea Sargent, care technicians at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter, restock the refrigerator in this file photo from October 2010 after giving the cat holding room a thorough cleaning.

STAFF PHOTO

Their renovation and to-do list is more than 80 projects long, but Beaufort County leaders don't know how all that work will be paid for.

The cost could be more than $27 million, and some county officials have recommended borrowing some or all of that money. However, that probably would entail a property-tax increase, which concerns some County Council members.

"There's a lot of moving parts here," Councilman Rick Caporale said. "It's really hard for me to go over this all at once. This is a lot of money for a lot of projects."

The council's Finance and Public Facilities committees voted last Tuesday to approve the county staff's list, but it did not determine how to pay for those projects.

Instead, the county finance staff will review options, particularly those that minimize the need for a tax increase, county administrator Gary Kubic said. Until a financing plan is nailed down, the projects will remain on hold.

Plans include replacing the Perry Clear Bridge on Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort; repairing leaky roofs on the county administration building, detention center and Bluffton library; and replacing 10- to 20-year-old air-conditioning systems in nearly a dozen county buildings, deputy county administrator Bryan Hill said.

If the county borrowed the entire $27 million for those projects at once, it would have to raise its tax rate by 1.35 mills, chief financial officer Alicia Holland has said. That means the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $11 more per year in property taxes, she added.

To avoid that, the county could break the list into smaller chunks, borrow those smaller portions on their own and defer some borrowing, Kubic said.

"Now that we know that we have a list (of projects), we'll convert the (cost) into the consequences of what it will do to the millage rate each year," Kubic said. "We'll create some more microscope slides and look at it again."

However, any attempt to avoid a large, short-term tax increase will almost certainly mean it will take longer for the county to pay off the work, Kubic said. He added that the projects are necessary and that the price could rise if the county waits to complete them.

Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.

Related content:

  • Beaufort County considers how to address $27 million in capital needs, March 18, 2014: http://bit.ly/1mEZV1s
  • Beaufort County could issue bonds for $6.2 million in repairs, improvements, Jan. 21, 2014: http://bit.ly/QyyFoE

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