Property inventory, sale smart financial moves

As Beaufort County officials look for ways to reduce expenses, some help on the revenue side would be welcome.

To that end, they have announced they are inventorying the county's property holdings with the goal of selling parcels the county doesn't need.

Doing so would be a twofold gain: The county would get some money, and the property sold would go back on the tax rolls once it is in private hands.

Selling the property also would reduce county maintenance costs. Every little bit helps when you're trying to reduce the operating budget from $104 million to $99.5 million.

The county owns about 550 acres, according to the Information and Technology Department. The county also has about 7,500 acres protected under its Rural and Critical Lands program.

The next step is to determine what acreage will be sold. Conservation acreage is off limits.

For many government entities, property holdings accumulate over the years, with the original purpose sometimes lost. A fresh look through the prism of today's circumstances is a good idea.

The Beaufort County School District has led the way in this sort of endeavor. The school district inventoried its property holdings in 2007 -- ahead of its $163 million school bond referendum in 2008 -- and the board designated about a dozen properties to be sold, from individual lots to 19.5 acres at Cherokee Farms.

Phyllis White, chief operational services operator, said none of the properties has sold, but the district has had some interest.

A few of the properties for sale are featured on the district's website at beaufort.k12.sc.us. It's a few clicks away from the home page. Go to "Our Departments," "Operational Services," "Finance" and then "Properties for Sale."

The Cherokee Farms property is listed for $430,000, and the district lists its 14,251-square-foot office building on King Street for $1.55 million. Information on two other parcels -- 4 acres and 1 acre -- is still to be posted.

All government agencies should regularly review their holdings to make sure they don't hold on to property they no longer need.

Much better to reduce upkeep costs and get the property back on the tax rolls.