Beaufort News

County unveils more proposed 2012 budget cuts

Falling revenue is forcing Beaufort County officials to consider deep cuts for the next fiscal year â€" $358,150 for both the Technical College of the Lowcountry and the University of South Carolina Beaufort, $643,000 for Beaufort Memorial Hospital, and maybe even the county’s Myrtle Park office in Bluffton.

County administrator Gary Kubic said the public should understand how far revenue has fallen. The county originally budgeted $104 million for this fiscal year, but that amount is now expected to be about $98 million.

Next year, $96 million of operating revenue is projected.

Right off the top, $1 million must go to cover higher debt payments for the county's Rural and Critical Lands program because council has indicated it won't support a tax hike, even for debt.

And without economic recovery, revenue could fall even further -- by millions of dollars -- when the next reassessment kicks in during the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

At some point, Kubic said, the budget tradeoffs become clear: Public safety or county services? An ambulance or a office building?

  • Under the budget proposal for the next fiscal year, six months' rent would be allocated for the Myrtle Park office while staff look for cheaper space and decide if personnel can be moved to Hilton Head or Beaufort.
  • "By only having six months, we put a limit on ourselves to produce within a fixed time frame," Kubic said. "There's a lot of vacant buildings out there; maybe I can get a better price."

  • The proposal would eliminate a $643,000 allocation to Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
  • Hospital president and CEO Rick Toomey said that money is used to "offset the cost of our charity care -- of us providing services to the people that come to the hospital but have no ability to pay."

    Toomey said the hospital is in sound financial shape and won't decrease charity care because of the cut. Financial statements show the nonprofit hospital's operating income was $7.4 million last year, and Toomey said those profits are reinvested in equipment and buildings.

  • A $2.4 million allocation to the Technical College of the Lowcountry will be cut to $2 million under the proposal. College president Tom Leitzel said hiring will be deferred to absorb the reduction.
  • "It's a substantial cut." he said. "As we construct our fiscal plans, we just can't do all the things we wanted to do."

    Leitzel said state funding is also being cut by $150,000 each of the next three years.

  • An allocation to the University of South Carolina Beaufort would also be reduced from $2.4 million to $2 million. A planned search for new math, graphic arts and hospitality management faculty will be canceled as a result, USCB public information director Candace Brasseur said in an email.
  • "Our commitment, even in these difficult times of state and county cuts, is to protect educational quality in the classroom for our students," Lynn Mcgee, vice-chancellor of advancement, said in a statement.