Beaufort News

Facing a drop in revenues, county officials debate cuts

  • kpeterson@beaufortgazette.com
  • 843-706-8147



  • Lucille Morgan reacts Thursday as she gets closer to "Bingo" at the Dale Community Center. Closing the center is among the possible cuts included in Beaufort County's proposed 2011-12 budget.
    Lucille Morgan reacts Thursday as she gets closer to "Bingo" at the Dale Community Center. Closing the center is among the possible cuts included in Beaufort County's proposed 2011-12 budget. Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

    Beaufort County officials say residents are speaking out against some suggested budget cuts.

    The ideas evoking the most reaction: reducing hours at libraries and solid-waste convenience centers, as well as closing two recreation centers in northern Beaufort County, officials say.

    Beaufort County Council is considering those and other cuts to address a projected 6.6 percent drop in revenues for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Also on the table are closing one of the county's four swimming pools; enticing some county employees into retirement with buyouts; and reducing money given to municipalities and some agencies.

    County Council has given conceptual approval to the proposed spending reductions. But final approval has not been granted, and the council will probably discuss some of the items in more depth before acting.

    "Everybody has a favorite item," said county administrator Gary Kubic. "It's what makes the debate."

    Councilman Gerald Dawson said he will oppose any move to shutter two recreation centers in Dale and Scott. Together, the centers serve about four dozen seniors and children. Closing the buildings and transporting the residents to other centers would save $40,000, according to the proposal.

    Dawson said he met with about 15 residents who told him they would rather "sit at home and rot away" than be bused to another recreation center.

    "They said that to me in no uncertain terms," Dawson said. "If I was in my 70s and 80s, to have to get on a bus daily and ride almost an hour to Burton Wells, I would forgo the trip myself."

    Councilman Steve Baer said he also has heard from a handful of residents opposed to cutting library hours to 40 a week -- down from 60 at the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island branches and from 66 at the Bluffton library. The move would save about $250,000.

    Baer tells constituents reduced library hours aren't a foregone conclusion.

    He said he believes easy targets have been singled out for cuts first, but he will not vote to approve them until he has examined the rest of the budget.

    "There are lots of places in a $97.5 million budget to save $200,000," Baer said. "I'm going to be looking elsewhere."

    Kubic said the proposed closure of solid-waste and recycling centers on Sundays and possibly Wednesdays -- at an estimated savings of $230,000 to $290,000 -- has prompted about five calls to his office.

    "It's not much of an indicator," he said of the number of calls, "but it does tell me that folks are paying attention."

      Comments