A Note From Our Mayors
Author: David Bennett & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai
A Note from David Bennett
Town Finances on Solid Ground
With all the discussion on the news networks about economic plans and financial accountability in the run up to the presidential election, I am pleased to report that our town’s financial stability is stronger than ever. The Town of Hilton Head Island issued $27.885 million general obligation (GO) refunding bonds at the beginning of September, which enables us to garner substantial savings in future years through lower interest rates.
The hard work of our finance director Susan Simmons, along with the leadership of John McCann on our council’s Finance & Administrative Committee, made this achievement possible by seeking out and taking advantage of favorable market conditions. I am grateful for the teamwork shown by staff and Town Council on this important matter. The new general obligation (GO) bonds replaced 2005, 2008 and 2010 bond issues totaling $28.440 million. As a consequence, our town will realize more than $3 million in savings over the life of the bonds, which will be used to repay the new bonds faster. In turn, the town, which is funding an aggressive Capital Improvements Plan, can now do so without increasing millage rates for the Debt Service Fund. Therefore, residents and tourists will benefit from new projects without a tax increase.
The achievement was due in large part to the favorable ratings the town recently received from the nation’s three major bond rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch, following a rigorous bond rating process. Moody’s rating was Aaa, which is the highest rating it provides. Standard & Poor’s was Aa+ (which is defined as very strong credit worthiness) and Fitch’s was AA+ (which is defined as very low default risk relative to other issuers or obligations in the same nation).
The favorable ratings reports by those three credit rating agencies attested to the Town of Hilton Head Island’s financial strength. Essentially, all three concluded that our finances are well-managed, with healthy reserve balances, and our economic outlook is solid.
As a result of this strong performance, the town expects to issue $25 million of bond anticipation notes as an interim source of funding for new projects in our previously approved Capital Improvements Plan. The town will pursue permanent financing in about a year with general obligation bonds as well as beach preservation fees and tax increment financing (TIF) special revenue bonds.
The Capital Improvements Plan includes expansion of the Island Recreation Center, island-wide beach renourishment, Coligny/Pope initiative area improvements, and a number of other items specified in the town’s fiscal year 2017 budget. For more information about our ratings and debt management policies, I welcome you to visit the town’s website at HiltonHeadIslandSC.gov.
A Note from Lisa Sulka
A Bluffton Update
The Town of Bluffton established the Neighborhood Assistance Program to assist low to moderate income residents of Bluffton with property repairs and improvements. The program will help increase the quality of life for all residents, while creating a safer, more vibrant community that retains its character and provides for quality affordable housing.
The home repair program is available to any Bluffton homeowner whose family income does not exceed 60 percent of the area median income for Beaufort County ($28,938 for a one-person household, $33,072 for a two-person household, and $41,340 for a four-person household). Each qualified household is eligible for up to $5,000 in home repairs ($10,000 for roof repairs and replacements) that result in safer, drier homes.
In Fiscal Year 2016, the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) was allotted $50,000 in the initial budget approved by Town Council for Safe and Dry Repairs. Safe and Dry Repairs include mostly roof and floor repairs. Repairs are limited to $5,000 per home for all repairs other than roofing repairs, which have a maximum repair contribution of $10,000. During FY 2017, an additional $12,000 was committed to the program, for a total of $62,000, which helped 11 families with their home repairs.
Other programs include demolition of unsafe structures. In FY 2016, three demolitions were completed. Families who earn less than 80% of the median household income for Beaufort County are eligible for this program.
The Town partners with other groups in an effort to expand its resources. One such group is the Low Country Council of Governments (LCOG), an organization that has access to greater funding and expansive programs. Other partners include the Center for Heirs Property Assistance, Bluffton Self Help, Deep Well and Beaufort County Government.
In FY 2017, Town Council approved $150,000 for the home repair program. Four families have currently been approved to start the contractor bidding process.
The Neighborhood Assistance Program goes beyond home repair projects; the town can also help with:
• posting of street addresses with the correct 911 address;
• sewer connection assistance;
• septic system cleanout;
• heirs property issues, such as obtaining a clear title;
• street repairs;
• workforce and affordable housing and incentives for developers who include an affordable housing element in their projects;
• education and outreach.
Contact Brad Mole at (843) 706-7818, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on programs and assistance.