The Math, the Aftermath and What Counts

Yes, December is the month of giving, but isn’t it almost certainly the month of counting too? Perhaps you can count off what you’re counting on for the remainder of this memorable year. Days? Presents? Calories? As for me, I’ve been doing the math of the aftermath and being mindful of what I’m counting on and what really counts. You too can count on the resources, which your town has set aside for such a time as this. You can count on each other to clean up, clear out and come alongside those in need, restoring our island to a beauty surpassing its previous standard, and you can count on me to press on to complete the priorities we have in place and determine a path forward for other important initiatives.

The count is still on for the total cost to your town for Hurricane Matthew recovery. Current estimates peg the Hilton Head Island’s post-FEMA reimbursement outlay at approximately $20 million (without consideration of any special holiday season gifts of state cost-sharing, which is likely; so, in the spirit of the season, please contact your state officials for details.) However, with some strategic cash management, the expenditures are currently being funded from established reserves such as the approximately $26 million in the combined General Fund Operating, Beach Preservation, Real Estate Transfer Fee, and Disaster Advertising accounts. As for our borrowing capacity, the town’s use of debt financing has historically been astoundingly low, and if that weren’t conservative enough, the town has self-imposed a borrowing cap at 80 percent of the state statutory level, just for the possibility (now the reality) of disaster recovery expenditures! The count? We could borrow an additional $37 million dollars, $23 million of which would be unhindered by the self-imposed cap. At our current high bond ratings and the low interest rate environment, this would be an inexpensive source of funds, which we don’t anticipate needing.

One of my favorite seasonal gifts is certainly the community generosity I’ve witnessed these last weeks since our storm, not even mentioning our fine public and civil servants, whose efforts are simply indescribable, we have all counted upon each other’s talents and resources; and surely for-profit, nonprofit and faith-based organizations such as Kroger, Harris Teeter, Piggly Wiggly, Publix, the Serg Group, CRAB, Island Recreation, Community Foundation, the Heritage Classic Foundation, the Hilton Head Area Realtors, United Way, Red Cross, Hilton Head Presbyterian Church, Grace Community Church, Deep Well, Neighborhood Outreach Connection—I cannot possibly count them all. But doubtless you’ve both served and been served by them, and they have come through for us. I count on them to continue to assist those who need it most.

Finally, please count on me to continue to press on and complete the priorities that your Town Council, together with your town staff and citizen volunteers, have established and labored upon these past two years. We must also commit resources to other imperative issues, which we as a community face. I have my five, which I count off on one hand. They have been near and dear to me since taking office in December of 2014. Four of the five, namely accountability and transparency, road and sewer infrastructure, planning and visioning for our future and prioritizing the maximum potential for historical, cultural and artistic island assets, are each reaping the benefits of Town Council, staff and citizen focus and efforts. Affordable housing and workforce availability appear on this short list too, and they are on deck for concerted attention in 2017. I’m counting on our citizens’ continued participation in the advancement of these initiatives, because you and I can count on this: All our successes are ultimately our fine residents’ gift back to our community.

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