Bluffton Town Council approved the Town’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 consolidated budget on second and final reading at the June 8 Town Council meeting. State law requires all municipalities to adopt a balanced budget ordinance before July 1. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The proposed consolidated budget is comprised of four different funds which include General Fund, Stormwater Utility Fund, Capital Improvements Program Fund and Debt Service Fund. The proposed FY 2022 consolidated budget totals $40,132,070 and is structured to move the Town forward through program enhancements to include improved delivery of services and its capital projects schedule.
The Town hosted two public workshops, May 18, and May 25, to discuss budget details. Both meetings were held at 5 p.m. via The County Channel and are archived on website. The videos are available via: https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/719/Town-of-Bluffton-Meeting-Videos.
The May 18 meeting discussed the General Fund, Debt Service Fund and the Stormwater Utility Fund. The May 25 meeting discussed the details of the Capital Improvements Program Fund.
Compared to the FY 2021 revised budget of $43,864,638, the FY 2022 budget reflects an 8.5% decrease. The initial FY 2021 consolidated budget was $34.2 due to projected decline in revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite those concerns, new residents continued to move to Bluffton thus property tax revenues and building permit revenues did not decline. Additionally, fund transfers and $5 million bond enabled town officials to revise the FY 2021 budget as the year progressed.
“It’s always better to cautiously estimate revenues when faced with the kind of uncertainty the town experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Interim Town Manager Chris Forster said. “That strategy kept the town financially strong.
“No one could precisely predict the financial fluctuations of the pandemic; however, the town was prepared. Due to the attractiveness of living here and the Town’s financial strategy, Bluffton fared very well among last year’s challenges and the town is poised to further progress into 2022.”
The proposed budget keeps the property tax millage the same at 38.5. For a house appraised at approximately $280,000, the Town tax bill for a full-time resident is approximately $546 which includes Town of Bluffton operations, debt and stormwater fee. The entire tax bill for the example above is nearly $2,000 including the other components such as Beaufort County, school operations and Bluffton Fire District taxes and fees.
- Supports a nearly $11.6 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for projects such as improved safety and walkability of high-traffic pedestrian areas (i.e., Bridge Street Streetscape), continuation of the installation of sanitary sewer and infrastructure (i.e., sidewalks, lighting and drainage enhancements) in areas outside of planned communities, design and stabilization of the historic Squire Pope Cottage in the Wright Family Park and installation of a security fence and other equipment to protect the Bluffton Police Department’s fleet and equipment.
- Supports the Town’s strategic interagency partnerships for economic development, shared parking agreements, multi-agency legal programs and public outreach.
- Supports the work plans of the Town’s boards, commissions and committees. For example, the $190,000 Affordable Housing Committee plan will, among other initiatives, assist income-qualified residents with minor home repairs as well as property maintenance, to include abatement of unsafe structures, hazardous tree removal, property clean-up and septic repair. The Beautification Committee Work Plan includes funds for tree plantings and an annual Arbor Day event.
- Restores two positions which were frozen in FY 2021: Growth Management Historic Preservation Planner and Growth Management Planning Inspector.
- Adds (8) full-time positions: Stormwater Permit Administrator, Capital Improvement Program Administrator, Public Works Worker, Senior Financial Analyst, IT Support Coordinator, Community Mental Health Advocate and two police officers.
- Adds (1) part-time position: Administrative Assistant for the Executive Office.
- Establishes a new vehicle lease program which supports up to 16 vehicle replacements for the aging fleet of the Bluffton Police Department.
- Reinstates in-state and out-of-state travel for staff and Town Council training and conferences.
- Implements a 5% salary increase for all town employees.
- Implements a 10% compensation increase for Mayor and council members. The increase will make the Mayor’s annual compensation $16,500 and town council members’ annual compensation $11,000.
Mayor Lisa Sulka said the Town begins the new fiscal year in a healthy financial position.
“Town Council’s goal is to provide the resources and strategy for Town staff to keep moving forward in our mission to enhance our residents’ life experience here.” Mayor Lisa Sulka said. “The pandemic has reshuffled people’s lives and locations resulting in Bluffton being one of the nation’s most desirable places to move. This budget plus the Town’s strategic plan are the blueprints for Bluffton’s next chapter as we continue to serve our community.”