August 2013

August 2013 Mayors

Author: Drew Laughlin & Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Photography by Anne

I am a baseball fan. As such, I like baseball statistics and numbers. While the Town of Hilton Head Island’s budget statistics may not be as interesting as, say, Pittsburgh Pirate lifetime hitting statistics, nonetheless, as mayor, and on behalf of a hard-working Town Council and staff, I am duty-bound to convey to residents our budget figures, because it is important that you know what we are doing with your dollars. See our web page: then click “financial dashboards.”

We have increased our services with no millage rate this year. Did you know that in 1994, 47 percent of our revenues came from property taxes, but that we have reduced that percentage to 27 percent? It’s true. In fact, for the average-priced home, you pay exponentially more in your annual cell phone costs than you do in annual town taxes. Town councils have made it a point to balance the costs of operating our beautiful island between visitors (2.45 million-at last count) and residents. Visitors pay what I would describe as “user costs” for the demands they place on our roads, beaches, pathways, parks and beach parks. That is fair. Many visitors pay accommodations and beach preservation taxes (short-term rental, hotel/motel) and hospitality taxes (prepared meals/beverages). That is fair.

Our total consolidated budget this year is $65,834,327. This represents our General Fund (operating fund of the town for all financial resources except those required for capital projects and debt service as well as a proprietary fund), our Debt Service Fund (accounts for the accumulation of resources and the payment of debt of our governmental funds), our Capital Projects Fund (accounts for the financial resources used to acquire land and facilities and to construct and improve public facilities, including roads, pathways, fire stations and parks. It also includes beach management and monitoring), and our Stormwater Utility Fund.

Some of our capital projects highlights will include: park developments at a community dock on Squire Pope Road with dock and pier components and Chaplin Linear Park; new facilities at Coligny/Pope Initiative Area; pathways at Pembroke and Gardner Drives; roadway improvements at Leamington/Fresh Market Shoppes; and beach management projects for an emergent issue named Ocean Point and early stages of the next major renourishment in 2015.

We developed our budget with the view of an improving island economy recovering from the economic recession. Our budget reflects Town Council’s adopted strategic plan. Going forward, we face challenges of increasing demands for services and facilities, and expanding our local economy.

Over the next six to nine months, town staff will be assessing each of the chapters of the Comprehensive Plan and recommending updates to the Planning Commission and Town Council. The Comprehensive Plan is a document created to guide the future growth and development of the community. A well-thought-out and executed Comprehensive Plan helps ensure that Bluffton remains a highly desirable community for residents, businesses, and visitors alike.

The Comprehensive Plan accomplishes this by setting forth goals, objectives, and action items that preserve and enhance the qualities of the community that the residents, businesses, and visitors consider important. These include, among other items, the following:

Providing a pattern for land use which will provide a sustainable community with a diversified tax base to support the desired facilities and services with reasonable tax rates.
Providing a legal basis for zoning and other regulations for the type, intensity, and timing of development.

Ensuring that, as development occurs, the most significant cultural and natural features are preserved or enhanced.

Recommending improvements to the transportation system, including roadways that need upgrading, traffic management tools to preserve roadway capacity, access management standards, and non-motorized options.

Addressing the desires and needs of residents, businesses, and visitors to preserve and enhance the community and its natural aesthetics.

Coordinating land use recommendations with anticipated land use changes, infrastructure improvements, and surrounding communities.

Town Council adopted the current Town of Bluffton Comprehensive Plan five years ago, which in addition to being a best management practice, is in compliance with the State of South Carolina Comprehensive Planning Enabling Act of 1994, which requires local governments to assess and update their Comprehensive Plans every five years and adopt a new plan every 10 years.

Town staff has initiated the assessment process and is currently updating the population chapter with 2010 census data. The results of the assessment and any recommended updates will be presented in public workshops before the Planning Commission.

The first public workshop will take place in late summer or early fall. Please follow the Town of Bluffton website and social media pages for more information as it is available.

The current Comprehensive Plan can be found on the Planning & Community Development page at

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