For the second consecutive year, property taxes are going up for Beaufort County residents.
The Beaufort County Council approved Monday evening the increase — roughly four percent — along with the 2018 fiscal year budget.
There was virtually no discussion by the public or county officials prior to the unanimous vote in favor of the new budget.
For owners who live full-time in houses valued at $288,000, the property tax increase means roughly $24 extra in annual property tax payments. Owners of second homes, which are taxed at a higher rate, would pay about $36 more.
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The county’s approximately $123 million operations budget will go into effect with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Taxes were raised by about 5 percent when the county’s 2017 fiscal year budget was passed in June of last year.
County officials anticipate revenues to grow about 3 percent in the coming fiscal year. The largest revenue source — more than $96 million — is expected to come from tax collection, county documents show.
However, those revenues are not expected to keep pace with greater expenses in fiscal year 2018, necessitating the property tax hike to balance the budget.
A large chunk of the new expenditures — $2.5 million — comes from the cost to implement the county’s recent employee salary study and provide the pay raises it recommended.
The raises would represent a roughly 3 percent increase in personnel expenses for the county’s approximately 1,100 employees, documents show.
Another $1 million was added to the new budget to help repair and improve the county’s aging telephone and internet infrastructure.
The budget also includes more than $4.3 million to be split equally between the University of South Carolina Beaufort and the Technical College of the Lowcountry.
Other major expenses include increased solid waste disposal costs and the hiring of about a half-dozen new full-time employees spread across a variety of departments.
Preparing the new budget was particularly challenging this year, in part due to “outside pressures beyond the scope of our control,” deputy county administrator Josh Gruber said Monday.
Hurricane Matthew cleanup —the cost of which has yet to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — as well as state-level cuts for contributions to local government funds played a role in making the budget preparation process a bit more complicated than in past years, Gruber said.
But despite the challenges, “we are making sure we are strategically positioned to be able to respond to any situation,” he said.
This year’s hurricane season, which started June 1, has the potential to be “another above-normal hurricane season,” according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predictions.
In an action separate from the approval of the new fiscal year budget, county leaders are preparing for a bond sale, which would raise money for public safety projects and help bolster reserves in case of another large, unanticipated expense such as a hurricane.
The County Council also voted Monday to approve the Beaufort County School District’s roughly $226 million 2018 fiscal year budget, which also includes a slight property tax increase.