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Hilton Head budget proposal keeps some spending unchanged

The Town of Hilton Head Island's spending on public safety, recreation and beach services likely will remain unchanged in the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Town Council on Tuesday informally blessed requests for money from agencies it supports, including the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office and the 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor's Office.

"Usually, it takes longer," Mayor Drew Laughlin said after it took only about 20 minutes for council to consider requests for the coming fiscal year.

"That's because they usually ask for more money," responded town manager Steve Riley.

In all, the town is expected to appropriate slightly less money that it did this year under the requests. The amounts will not be finalized until council passes the budget in June.

Council gave its tentative OK for:

  • $48,500 to the Solicitor's Office's drug court and $35,000 to its Career Criminal Prosecution Team -- the same amount as this year.
  • Solicitor Duffie Stone noted in a letter to council that the criminal prosecution team netted a 96 percent conviction rate in 2010. Last year, criminals who lived and committed crimes on Hilton Head comprised 16 percent of the team's caseload. The cases involved shootings, stabbings, armed robberies, burglaries and cocaine trafficking.

  • $175,000 to the Lowcountry Regional Transportation Authority, which runs Palmetto Breeze. The public bus service operates throughout the Lowcountry. The amount is similar to the current year. Ridership has dropped in recent years, but is expected to pick up, said executive director Rochelle Ferguson. Ridership dropped from a high of more than 250,000 in 2000 to about 150,000 in 2010, she reported.
  • $2.8 million to the Sheriff's Office for police services, traffic control, water patrol and investigators on Hilton Head.
  • That figure is similar to what the town will spend this year. The Sheriff's Office negotiated a new one-year lease agreement for office space at 7 Lagoon Road, saving the county and town a combined $23,000 on rent, said SuszanneCook, financial officer for the Sheriff's Office.

  • $164,631 to Shore Beach Services Inc. for beach patrol, a decrease of $430.
  • $623,109 to the Island Recreation Association, a $6,169 increase -- or 1 percent -- from last year. Executive director Frank Soule said the additional funding will help pay to heat the rec center pool, cover maintenance expenses and give a 2 percent pay raise to employees, their first in two years.
  • $75,000 to the Coastal Discovery Museum for management and $29,900 -- a decrease of $5,700 -- to protect and monitor sea turtle nesting and hatching.
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