The Important Link Between Visioning and Budgeting
Those close to me know one of my favorite Bible scriptures is from the King James Version of the Book of Proverbs (29:18) which reads: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Much the same can be said about the relationship between a town’s vision and its budget. Without a well-planned and executed budget, the town’s vision will falter.
Conversely, when there is a vision—one that has been clearly identified and articulated—the available financial resources become more efficient in achieving town goals. Indeed, prudent and effective financial management is among the most formidable tools for helping any municipality transform into a better place to live and work. Hilton Head Island is no different.
I believe one of Town Council’s most important responsibilities is approving and continuously monitoring our budget, which provides the funding to implement the vision our residents wish to set forth. Ensuring that our community’s objectives and vision are preserved is precisely why proper budgeting is so vital. It’s not enough that we are concerned about the amount of taxes we personally pay, but we should also be mindful about how our money is being allocated to further enhance the objectives and vision that has been established to sustain and improve our quality of life.
On June 21, following three intense months of development, editing and review, we finished this year’s budgeting process. Approval by Town Council was unanimous, and I am pleased to report that a good job was done by both staff and council.
Our total consolidated budget of approximately $100 million represents the General Fund, Capital Projects and Debt Service Funds. It is about a $10 million increase over the previous year, but includes a $13.8 million increase in long-term capital projects for the island, incorporating several long-awaited projects such as paving numerous dirt roadways that still exist.
I’m very pleased that we have been able to move forward on these long-awaited capital projects while also finding ways to underwrite some of Town Council’s new initiatives including $200,000 for the Venue Committee to consider the future of arts venues on our island; $100,000 for the Coastal Discovery Museum to promote historic Mitchelville; and some important enhancements of the Public Safety budget, which includes two additional sheriff’s deputies. As we all recognize, public safety is a cornerstone to maintaining a strong community.
Town staff worked hard on this year’s budget, and their good job was achieved without having to raise the millage rate. Indeed, the town’s progress in decreasing its reliance on property taxes as a percent of revenue in the General Fund from 67 percent in fiscal year 1994 to 33 percent this coming year shows an ability to expand and diversify its funding sources.
You will be pleased to know that your town property taxes will be just the same this year as last. For a home valued at $350,000, property taxes are less than a dollar a day ($310.52 to be precise). That’s less than half the cost of a small Starbucks coffee a day to cover public safety, beach patrol, fire and emergency medical response, parks, pathways, protected green space and all the other new initiatives. As some might say, it’s a quality of life that is “priceless.”
In my mind, the most significant of our new town initiatives is the Visioning Process for which we have allocated $400,000. A visioning process is the best method for us to determine exactly what our Town of Hilton Head Island values, and as a follow-up, what our priorities should be for the coming years. Then, as we assess these values and priorities, we can more effectively decide, as a community, just how much we are willing to “budget”/pay for them.
I hope you will join in the process, because this is your town just as much as it is anyone else’s.