AUGUST 2012: MAYORS
Author: Drew Laughlin and Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne
Town council recently adopted our 2012-2013 fiscal year budget. We held numerous public meetings to review carefully the town manager’s proposed budget, and we discussed, at length, various revenue and expenditure items. No tax increase was proposed and no tax increase was adopted. The public, as always, was welcome to attend and speak.
As I view this or any recent budget, we have to live within our means while maintaining service levels. What a concept! You’re probably thinking, “Mayor, that’s what I do at home.” I am sure most do budget this way, so it is disheartening to see major U.S. cities declare bankruptcy because they, for various reasons, failed to live within their means or failed to understand that economies expand and contract. We’ve kept expenditures in check, reduced staff, and created a reserve account years ago to get our island up and running again should disaster strike. More topically, we have approached the multi-million dollar requests we receive for private/public partnerships responsibly. Sometimes we’ve said “not yet.” Other times we’ve said,
“Show us the money for study and operational costs if your project is ever built.” That doesn’t make council popular, but it does make us responsible and accountable to all residents.
In Beaufort County, we face property reassessment later this year at a time when property values have declined since the last reassessment five years ago. Even though state law limits municipalities’ ability to raise taxes, council could have raised taxes this year but chose not to. So, we’re facing some pretty challenging times ahead, particularly when we are committed to maintaining our beautiful amenities in a first rate way while, at the same time, weighing proposals for cultural, social, and historical opportunities, including Mitchelville, an aquatics center, Island Recreation Center expansion, and performing arts venues and considering proposals for investment of public funds to stimulate revitalization and renewal. The good news is that tax increment financing dollars need to be spent before their expiration, and we are close to committing dollars to projects. We are also close to paying off some long-term debt, and we have refinanced other debt so that we’ll reduce debt payments going forward. Council has done a terrific job in this regard.
This year, our most important budget item is for public safety, and we are devoting 24 percent of our expenditures to this category. That means fire, rescue, and law enforcement services will be operating at full strength and offering residents and visitors the best trained and prepared public safety personnel I know.
Remember this: In our 1993/94 budget, 47 percent of revenues came from property taxes. Now, with greater emphasis on making those who use our services pay for the demands they place on such services, property taxes represent only 26 percent of the town’s revenues.
DO YOU RECYCLE AT HOME?
The Town of Bluffton is participating in the SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge, and we need your help! Americans recycle only one-and-a-half pounds of the more than four pounds of waste they generate daily, adding unnecessary waste to our nation’s landfills. In an effort to help slow this trend and further inspire waste reduction efforts, today, the Town of Bluffton announced their participation in the SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge, a nationwide contest that aims to increase household recycling participation in 50 communities across the United States. The Challenge kicks off a new partnership with Recyclebank, the company that rewards people for taking everyday green actions with discounts and deals. Recyclebank has launched in Bluffton in collaboration with Waste Management.
Bluffton is thrilled to be representing South Carolina in the SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge, as it is the perfect way to kick-start the new recycling rewards program and local participation. We encourage everyone to get involved—residents will have the opportunity to protect the environment, invigorate the local economy and help keep Bluffton clean, while earning everyday savings from Recyclebank and working toward the grant from SC Johnson.
While the SC Johnson Green Choices Recycling Challenge aims to increase consumers’ recycling, it will also contribute to SC Johnson’s goal of becoming landfill neutral by 2016. Through their operational commitments as well as with the help of Recyclebank and communities across the country, the company will eliminate or divert more than 480 million pounds of waste from the nation’s landfills, which is equivalent to more than its U.S. waste footprint.
Waste Management nominated the Town of Bluffton and the community of Sun City to represent South Carolina in the recent challenge from SC Johnson. What this means, is that the Town of Bluffton is one of 50 participants in a nationwide project to increase household recycling. The community with the highest reported recycling participation will receive a $100,000 grant to put toward a local sustainability project in their community!
To participate, Bluffton and Sun City residents must go to the website www.recyclebank.com/greenchoices and set up an account for your household. Once you have verified that you are a Town of Bluffton resident or live in Sun City and set up your account, you can go in once a week to report your recycling efforts, which earns you points for simply participating! You earn rewards such as discounts and actual prizes once enough points are accumulated, and your activity counts toward Bluffton’s total participation in the challenge.
The winning community will be announced in January 2013. For more information, please visit scjohnson.com/greenchoices.