Beaufort City Council needs to slow down on a couple of money ideas that are too big to be considered in the annual budget process.
One is the concept thrown out by Mayor Billy Keyserling to consider reducing the fire department's paid staff. The issue came up because the department responds to many more medical emergencies than fire emergencies.
But fire and emergency medical coverage is too important to undergo drastic change in a single, fast-paced budget season.
The other concept is the proposed "public safety fee." This potential source of $900,000 in city revenue was suggested by the city staff and has to date not been proposed by a City Council member.
It would have major ramifications as currently proposed.
It would add a fee based on property value to every property owner in town, including nonprofits that currently pay no property tax.
That means people already paying property tax to cover fire and police services would be hit again through the new fee. That is not good. It isn't fair.
As to charging nonprofits, this is a sea change that needs more careful examination.
When it was proposed in a different format in 2013, it got a cool reception for good reason.
Beaufort is not sinking under the weight of nonprofits. Two years ago, nonprofits such as churches, Beaufort Memorial Hospital and higher-education providers made up less than 10 percent of the total property in town as well as total appraised property value. That may now be around 15 percent, but Beaufort is still not dominated by nonprofits that demand special services.
The nonprofits give to the city in many ways other than direct taxation. They make the city vital in terms of attracting residents and businesses. They improve the city socially and morally. Also, they provide a number of costly community services that might otherwise fall to taxpayers.
The city may argue that churches that rent out property -- or a hospital that buys a private medical practice, taking its property off the tax rolls and the business license fees out of the city's till-- should be treated as for-profits.
That's a good discussion to have. Debate that. But do not saddle everyone in town with a new fee that will never go away and will only go up over time.