Beaufort News

Committee votes to cap County Council compensation

A Beaufort County Council committee voted Monday to recommend capping part of council members' compensation, in part to show solidarity with employees who will be asked to do more with less in a leaner budget.

The proposed budget for next fiscal year includes no cost-of-living increase for county employees.

"I think we're asking staff to be frugal and efficient, and I think it's up to us to do the same thing," Councilman Steve Baer said.

Council members are paid a salary of about $14,000, deputy county administrator Bryan Hill said after the Finance Committee meeting. They're also are reimbursed for miles driven to meetings and receive a $40 stipend for each meeting attended.

The committee voted to limit each council member to 120 such stipends per year -- $4,800 per council member.

Councilman Stu Rodman said council members averaged about 160 stipends per year -- $6,400 each -- during 2009 and 2010.

Councilman Bill McBride cast the lone dissent, but persuaded colleagues to include a provision that would require the cap to be reviewed again in two years.

NO TAX HIKE, NO SPENDING RESERVES

The committee also unanimously recommended approval of a budget with no tax increase and no spending from reserves.

Projected revenue for next fiscal year's budget is $96.3 million, down from $98.5 million projected this year.

County administrator Gary Kubic said freezing debt millage will halt capital improvements, with only a few exceptions.

McBride said the council made a similar move several years ago, and "it came back to haunt us."

"You had wheels dropping off vehicles -- that's an exaggeration, of course -- but almost," he said.

The proposed budget also cuts contributions to educational institutions, outside agencies and groups not affiliated with county government.

Councilman Jerry Stewart expressed concern that those groups whose funding might be cut have not been given the chance to comment.

"We've given them no opportunity to tell us what that means to them or what it's going to do to their budgets," he said.

The committee discussed whether the county needs to maintain a minimum level of service, and if cuts might hit that floor.

Councilman Rick Caporale said the council will know if it has cut too deeply.

"I wouldn't worry so much about whether we're going too far," he said, "because I think there are people all over the county who will tell us when we have."

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