Beaufort County Council votes on two important issues in meeting - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Beaufort County Council votes on two important issues in meeting

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BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) -

It was a full house at Monday night's Beaufort County Council meeting.

The majority of people came out to oppose a capital sales tax referendum, which failed 7-4 in its first reading.

Several council members agreed the list of projects, totaling about $220 million, contained more wants than needs and was assembled too quickly.

But the other most important agenda item did pass with a 9-2 vote. The council didn't increase the school district's $114.8 million budget, but they did give them some spending flexibility.

It came down to a numbers game for the third and final reading of the Beaufort County School District budget.

School Board Chairman Bill Evans approached the council hoping they would increase their budget.

He reiterated that it's only reasonable to make the cuts once they have a final number and that they have identified close to $2 million they can cut without affecting classroom instruction.

"We did not overextend our budget, as you all know, we worked out a balanced budget last year that was based on certain revenue projections which did not come in for nobody's particular fault," he said.

But some people felt the district simply chose to ignore the council's request to trim $4 million out.

"In other words, they're saying, 'we're just hoping you're going to change your minds instead of showing true responsibility and finding additional areas.' Two million out of their total budget is a drop in the bucket, they can find more, do not do it on the back of the taxpayers," said Beaufort County citizen Ann Ubelis.  

In the end, the council voted 9-2 to keep the district's budget at $114.8 million, but they will allow them the flexibility to use reserve funds to make up the difference.

"That's a great benefit to us. We can't get the $4 million unless we spend some of our reserves or start impacting our personnel and directly impact the classroom, that's the only way we can get the $4 million," said Evans.    

The next step following Monday night's budget vote will be to establish what the new county mill rate should be in August.   

On Tuesday at 5 p.m., school officials will meet at the district office to discuss where some of the budget cuts will need to be.

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