BLUFFTON, S.C. (WSAV) — The town of Bluffton is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in South Carolina.
To run a town growing that fast, it takes money. The money the Town Council officially approved in a new budget on Tuesday.
The Bluffton Town Council approved the Town’s Fiscal Year 2023 consolidated budget of $59,259,649. That is a 12.1% increase from 2022.
“As verified from the 2020 U.S. Census, Bluffton has doubled in size in the past decade as the Town has focused on providing services and amenities to maintain Bluffton’s totality of offerings,” said Town Manager Stephen Steese. “This budget reflects the Town’s goals to build parks, enhance drainage/natural resources protection, preserve historic resources, balance growth as we cherish our ‘sense of place’ and identity as a highly attractive coastal town.”
But property taxes in the Town will not go up. The Town has kept them steady, except for one drop, since 2014.
For a house appraised at approximately $290,800, the Town tax bill for a full-time resident is approximately $563 which includes Town of Bluffton operations, debt, and stormwater fee.
Property taxes will provide 18.3% of the budget and 25% will come from licenses and permits.
“We don’t have to support a town-funded water sewer or a town-run trash service so a lot of what we provide when it comes to services is focused on the experience residents have day in and day out,” explains Chris Forster, Bluffton Assistant Town Manager of Finance & Administration. “Those tangible experiences, quality of life experiences,”
The Capital Improvements Program makes up $26.8 million of the total.
Parks projects make up 18.9% and stormwater and sewer projects comprising 17.1% of the budget.
This fund supports the Historic District sewer projects, Bridge Street Streetscape project, Historic District drainage projects, and the May River Action Plan among other plans.
One of the biggest projects, construction on the first phase of the New Riverside Park-Barn site
“In total it will be about a $12 million project,” said Forster. “The first phase is about $3.8 million. It will have a renovated barn which can be used for events and ceremonies. They will be open space for festivals and private events, it will have walking trails around the whole area as well as a playground area.”
Town employees will also get a 7.8% raise in the budget after a nearly year-long study of local and state salaries.
The Town says this budget focuses on what is needed now, with an eye toward the future.
“This will allow us to put more on our fund for disasters, like hurricanes, and also start to put reserves away for capital improvements down the line,” said Forster. “We recognize we drastically increased our capital footprint as we have grown. And we recognize the need to put aside money for the future as those assets need to be renewed and replaced.”
The Town also is working on a public-private partnership to help deal with the workforce housing issue in the area, as well as teaming up with Beaufort County in search of other opportunities to ease the housing crisis for the lower to middle-income working families in the area.