Beaufort County is no longer asking the Town of Hilton Head Island for an extra $1 million for police protection on the island, town officials say, but the Sheriff’s Office could receive $77,000 more for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
As part of the town’s proposed $86.2 million total budget for 2017-18, the Town Council on Tuesday is expected to approve $3.4 million for the Sheriff’s Office, the same amount budgeted for this fiscal year. The Sheriff’s Office would keep the same number of deputies — 42 — assigned to the island under the new budget.
Last month, county administrator Gary Kubic told the town Finance and Administrative Committee that the county was requesting $4.4 million for fiscal 2018 — about a 30 percent increase over the current amount.
Contacted last week, however, Kubic said the matter was “misconstrued,” noting the additional $1 million was not a formal budget request to Hilton Head but rather was only presented to the town as the “actual cost” of providing protection on the island.
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Yet Mayor David Bennett in his weekly email release on Friday said the the town was requested to pay an extra $1 million. He also said town property owners collectively pay nearly half of the county’s property taxes.
“Nothing will change. Services will continue to be just as good if not better,” said Sheriff P.J. Tanner when contacted last week about the town’s proposed 2017-18 budget for the Sheriff’s Office. “We’re in pretty good shape.”
The town plans to conduct a study of police protection on the island before its current contract with the county expires on Jan. 31, according to town officials. Bennett said Friday when the review is completed, the town will be in a better place to discuss the contract going forward.
“The intent is to appropriate funding to meet our contractual obligations and set aside a prorated amount to pay February (2018) through the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2018),” Bennett said. “What we do beyond the contract period will be dictated by the audit. We’ve set aside those funds.”
Town officials contacted by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette have given conflicting explanations about whether a proposed additional $77,000 for the Sheriff’s Office for next fiscal year would be allocated. Several said whether it would be allocated depends on the results of the town’s upcoming study of police protection, while Bennett said it would be part of a proposed prorated amount that would extend the town’s contract with Beaufort County to the end of fiscal year 2018.
“The $77,000 is in the reserves,” said Steve Riley, town manager. “And we’ll talk about it when we get the study done.”
Greg DeLoach, assistant town manager, said the additional $77,000 would cover increases in medical and retirement costs for deputies assigned to the island.
DeLoach said the review was planned to take place last year but was suspended because of the Oct. 8 hurricane. The town at the time selected Public Safety Strategies Group LLC, based in Massachusetts, to do the study.
The town budgeted $35,000 this fiscal year for the study, and that money has been rolled over into the proposed budget for fiscal 2018, DeLoach said.
Public Safety Strategies intended to have community meetings where individuals could share their thoughts on police protection on the island, DeLoach said, adding similar meetings likely will happen once the review begins.
The review, according to a document provided by the town, would include:
▪ Determining if police response times are consistent with similar communities.
▪ Determining if the time frames for resolving outstanding cases are consistent with similar communities.
▪ Conducting an analysis to identify areas of high performance and areas where improvements can be made.
Another consulting firm could conduct the study, DeLoach said, adding no final decisions have been made.