Beaufort County Council approved a 5 percent increase in hangar rental rates Monday at both the Hilton Head Island Airport and the Beaufort County Airport on Lady's Island.
Hangars at Hilton Head currently run from $380 to $2,431 per month; those on Lady's Island run from $252 to $265.
Councilman Steve Baer said the hikes are a matter of simple economics.
"It's a fee for service," he said. "That fee, unfortunately, doesn't cover our costs, so the taxpayers of Beaufort County have to make up the difference."
Baer said his constituents often ask about the Hilton Head hangars.
"One of those comments is continually, 'Why don't we charge the users of those 26 private hangars what it costs us to build and operate the hangars?' " he said. "I have no answer for that. All I can say is, 'They have powerful friends.' "
Councilman Stu Rodman argued for postponement until airport funding could be reviewed comprehensively. He characterized a rate hike as flying in the face of council's agreement not to raise taxes this year.
"I think what we continue to go through here is bordering on class warfare," Rodman said.
The proposal was approved 9-1 with Rodman dissenting. Councilwoman Laura Von Harten was absent.
ESTUARIUM TO CLOSE
The Lowcountry Estuarium has received about $1,000 in donations since its precarious financial position became public. But curator Bob Bender says that's not enough to keep the lights on and the doors open after this week.
County Council considered giving the group $3,000 in accommodations-tax money Monday, but the motion failed on a 5-5 vote.
Without money to pay rent and utilities for August, the estuarium will open for the last time Saturday. Afterward, the dozen or so aquariums and their inhabitants will move back in with Bender.
"We will continue as a virtual estuarium," he said. "We're not dead. We're just no longer a brick-and-mortar facility that is bringing tourists."
Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.