UPDATE: Hilton Head increases taxes and fees to restore funds after Hurricane Matthew

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WSAV) – Hilton Head Town Council voted unanimously to raise taxes Tuesday in order to replenish the reserve fund depleted after recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

The $86 million dollar budget also raises business license fees and ambulance fees by 15 percent and will go into affect July first.

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HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WSAV) – Hilton Head Town Council proposed a budget Tuesday night that would increase business license fees and property taxes in order to replenish the reserve fund depleted after recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

“Our reserves that we thought were pretty good, weren’t enough,” said Town Manager Steve Riley, “The preparation we thought we had done, it was good for this storm, it may not be enough for the next storm.”

The budget proposes a fifteen percent increase on business licenses and a hike in property taxes– about $30 dollars for every $100,000 dollars on a home for the next five years.

“Three or four different sources of revenue to try to get ourselves back on track,” he said, “Business license is one of our larger sources of revenue and we haven’t raised it in over twenty years… Property taxes is one of our largest source of revenues.”

The budget also increases fees on ambulance rides as well as a storm water utility fee to be determined in the coming month.

“That hasn’t been increased in 7 years, and clearly, the storm has shown us there’s more we need to do in repairing our drainage system,” Riley said.

Property owners say they understand that it’s all part of living on the Island.

“We live in an area where hurricanes are expected… it could have been an awful lot worse, and had it been worse, we’d need even more money,” said Tom Hendrickson, an 11-year-resident, “I think if it’s moderate and spread out across the whole board in an equitable manner, it’s a very reasonable step for the town to take.”

“The hurricane put a real strain on the counties budget,” said property owner Jim Hughes, “But still, rather not see taxes go up.”

Businesses say they’re willing to come together as a community, but want the town to keep in mind, every little bit counts.

“We would love to see that this would be another way that we could come together to help support the island and rebuild the island,” said Sarah Perry an owner of Branches floral store, “Perhaps after the reserve is back in place, that perhaps then it would be reduced again.”

“There’s a lot of costs involved in running the show… as far as employees and any kind of expenses on the matter, so, for myself, I can speak that every little bit helps with everything,” said Michael Fekete owner of Java Burrito, “Whenever somebody takes money from me, it’s something to I guess talk about.”

“Part of the lessons are, we’re gonna have to build up our capacity to pay for repairs and everybody’s gonna have to share a little bit of that burden,” Riley said. He adds that this budget is a “worst case scenario” – if borrowed money along with state and county reimbursement isn’t enough.

The Town Council will vote on the budget in June.

 

 

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