Cuts to next year's budget allowed the town of Bluffton to pare $2.29 million from the proposed spending plan and won't require a tax increase, town officials said at Tuesday's town council meeting.
Town manager Anthony Barrett, who announced at the meeting that he would retire in September, proposed a $19.64 million budget for fiscal 2015, a drop from the $21.93 million budget approved for 2014.
Large cuts are planned for the Capital Improvements Program Fund and the Stormwater Fund, with each set to have about a third of its 2014 budget slashed.
Millage rates won't increase, despite the general fund jumping from $11.01 million to $12.43 million in the proposed budget. The increase in the general fund comes largely because of increases in the police department and economic development budgets.
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Bluffton's police budget rises 22 percent in the 2015 proposal, from $4,063,175 to $4,990,090. Most of that increase comes because of plans to hire seven new police officers, a move necessitated by consistent growth in service calls, Barrett said.
The proposed budget for the town's economic development department more than doubles, from $200,300 to $415,925. Most of that money would go to the Don Ryan Center for Innovation and the town's public development corporation.
A drop in funding sources for the town's stormwater management fund led to a proposed 39 percent drop for 2015.
The proposed stormwater budget will drop from $2.7 million to $1.6 million, with the majority of expenses going toward wetlands restoration. However, the town may need to spend $40 million over the next 25 years to continue to ensure the water quality in the May River, Barrett said.
More than $2.3 million was slashed from the Capital Improvements Program Fund budget, dropping it from $6.2 million to $3.9 million. Last year's fund was approved at $3.6 million but eventually rose to $6.2 million.
In the proposed 2015 budget, infrastructure improvements at the Buckwalter Place Technology Park represent the single highest expenditure, at $1.1 million.
Council will review the proposed budget at workshops planned May 20 and, if needed, May 27. The workshops will be at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at town hall. Final reading for the budget is scheduled for the June 10 council meeting.
The 2015 budget will be Barrett's last as town manager; his retirement comes after 37 years of public service. Barrett joined the town in September 2009, moving to Beaufort County from Virginia. No replacement has been announced.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.