For the first time, the Town of Hilton Head Island drafted and adopted a biennial budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
In June, town council unanimously passed the fiscal year budget of $79.1 million, which is about $500,000 less than the 2019 amount, and $78.6 million for the 2021 budget.
The town's fiscal year begins each July.
Even though the budget covers two years, it will be reviewed and approved annually for any adjustments.
"This is a sign that the town is forward-looking and putting an emphasis on sustainability and long-term projects," said John Troyer, director of finance.
The highest percentage of money for programs is targeted for "public safety," and the highest percentage in the budget by category is for "debt service." A reduction in debt service from 2019, for instance, is because the town paid off a bond debt for beach renourishment.
"As revenue growth slows due to the town approaching buildout, the challenge will continue to be finding ways to stimulate the economy as well as realign our funding streams in order to face the many challenges of increasing demands of service by residents and tourists alike," said Town Manager Steve Riley in a written statement.
Among the notable budget line items for 2020 are:
• The town created a natural disaster fund two years ago and now that coffer has $60 million for disaster response.
• The town saved a net $205,243 by eliminating the municipal court.
• A 3-percent merit increase for town staff increased $596,171 from 2019.
• Installing a new telephone system reduced expenses by $139,000.
• The contracted public safety contract with the sheriff's office totals $3.5 million for 2020, down $138,542 from the year before.
• The contracted public safety contract with Shore Beach Services increased $55,905 to $331,140 from last year.
• Community grants for the Coastal Discovery Museum (general, capital and Mitchelville Initiative) are unchanged.
• Fire and rescue expenditures are programmed at $41.1 million for 2020, which represents 38 percent of the town's general fund expenditures.
Key priorities for the town in 2020 are Celebration Park/Coligny Park, the U.S. 278 corridor project, Mitchelville/Gullah-Geechee culture preservation, and workforce development and affordable housing.
To read the entire 156-page budget, visit hiltonheadislandsc.gov/departments/finance/budget/FY2020Budget.pdf.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.