Beaufort leaders planning for city's financial future

Beaufort leaders planning for city's financial future
(Source: WTOC)

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Economic development is already part of the Beaufort City Council's strategic plan, but at a council retreat Tuesday, members spoke again about the importance of bringing in more businesses and more dollars to the city.

Councilman Stephen Murray is a Beaufort native and says while lots of people want to keep Beaufort's charm and culture, they also need to figure out how to bring in new businesses and new tax bases. He says right now, Beaufort gets most of its money from residential taxes, and that's just not a lot of income for the city to pay for needed projects.

"Most folks don't realize that residential taxes are actually money losers for the government. They don't actually cover the cost of services that are provided to them, so it takes a strong, healthy, expanding commercial tax base for us to continue to provide the level of services that folks are used to and expect," Murray said.

A big conversation Tuesday was balancing what they already love about Beaufort with what's needed to move the city forward.

"You know, preserving our historic, our cultural, our natural resources. That's what generations of Beaufortonians have worked so hard to preserve, but also acknowledging, you know, we have to have a strong economic base. We have to have a diversity of people that live here, and so how do we blend all those things together," Murray said.

In the next 10 years, leaders want to build a parallel road to Boundary Street. Mayor Billy Keyserling says they've built about three blocks already, but don't have the money to do the whole road right now. He says it will help redevelop the area and improve traffic safety. Their top priority is expanding the Waterfront Park and parking. They want to build more green space and hold more events there. The mayor says it's an economic and cultural center for the city.

"We came back to the marina, I think because that's the core. That's the signature. That's a driver that really becomes the center, not only of the 13,500 people in the city but of the 65,000 people plus those who consider Beaufort their hometown," Mayor Keyserling said.

Council also set more immediate priorities for this year, including improving drainage.

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