Beaufort County's unemployment rate increased to 7.7 percent in August, and each week the newspaper is full of property foreclosures. Still, County Council voted mammoth increases in real estate tax rates. Operations rates are up 15.6 percent; debt service is up 23.4 percent; and land acquisition is up 12.1 percent.
Many council members railed against the school district a couple of years ago for minor increases.
A portion of these increases are caused by the lower tax base from the five-year reassessment. The school district lowered its increase to 6.8 percent from more than 10 percent. This is closer to the reduced revenue due to reassessment.
Apparently, County Council and its Finance Committee are incapable of competent analysis. When approving the budget in June, council promised library hours would increase from 40 to 50 at each branch. If the Finance Committee was doing its job, it would have discovered that the 2014 library budget is $800,000 less than it was in 2008. This is after removing St. Helena's $538,000 portion of the 2014 budget because it did not exist as a free-standing branch in 2008. There is no money for the promised additional hours.
This is a complete failure of the Finance Committee. Why did they fail to understand library funding? Why do they not set policy on financial transparency? Just what do they accomplish in all those meetings?
Remember this when voting in 2014.