Residents of Beaufort County are facing a $27 million unfunded liability for maintenance and repair items, according to one councilman. Upkeep on property, hard assets and equipment "can no longer be delayed without the risk of system failure and the associated higher cost."
That's no way to run a budget. Maintenance costs should not be deferred on capital purchases. They should be allocated and budgeted as a percentage of each purchase. Assets owned by the people should not be allowed to deteriorate to the point of collapse. And taxpayers should not have to face an ultimatum of more debt through borrowing, higher property taxes or higher sales taxes to cover expenses that have accumulated to tens of millions of dollars.
A good portion of the liability might be covered with the proposed 1 percent sales tax. But because that would raise far more than $27 million, a wish list of other capital projects (with more deferred maintenance costs?) is being compiled.
A far better alternative would have been to cover the liability with the county's portion of the local option sales tax. It would have allowed the municipalities to fund their own priorities, and the tax would have been offset for the residents with property tax rebates. Unfortunately, County Council decided not to give residents a choice in the matter.