Last year at this time, the COVID-19 pandemic hung financial uncertainty like a blanket of gloom throughout the planet – and the Town of Bluffton was no exception.  

There was no way to predict how the pandemic would shape the Town’s finances. Despite those concerns, Bluffton fared well financially and exceeded budgetary expectations. 

The Town initially cautiously and conservatively estimated revenues for fiscal year 2021. However, due to the work-at-home cultural shift and the moving trend known as “reshuffling,” Bluffton benefited from many new residents moving here. Thus, property tax and building permit revenues did not decline.  

Additionally, fund transfers and $5 million bond enabled town officials to revise the FY 2021 budget as the year progressed. 

As the pandemic moves further away in the rear-view mirror, Bluffton is ready for its next chapter, as Bluffton Town Council approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 consolidated budget at the June 8 council meeting. State law requires all municipalities to adopt a balanced budget ordinance before July 1. The new fiscal year begins July 1. 

Compared to the FY 2021 revised budget of $43,864,638, the FY 2022 budget reflects an 8.5% decrease. The initial FY 2021 consolidated budget was $34.2 due to projected decline in revenues due to the pandemic. 

The proposed budget keeps the property tax millage the same at 38.5. For a house appraised at approximately $280,000, the Town tax bill for a full-time resident is approximately $546, which includes Town of Bluffton operations, debt and stormwater fee. The entire tax bill for the example above is nearly $2,000, including the other components such as Beaufort County, school operations and Bluffton Fire District taxes and fees.

The new budget includes nearly $11.6 million Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for projects such as improved safety and walkability of high-traffic pedestrian areas (i.e., Bridge Street Streetscape), continuation of the installation of sanitary sewer and infrastructure (i.e., sidewalks, lighting and drainage enhancements) in areas outside of planned communities, design and stabilization of the historic Squire Pope Cottage in the Wright Family Park and installation of a security fence and other equipment to protect the Bluffton Police Department’s fleet and equipment. The Town will also add eight full-time positions in numerous departments, including a mental health community advocate for the Bluffton Police Department. 

Town Council’s goal is to provide the resources and strategy for Town staff to keep moving forward in our mission to enhance the life experiences of our residents.

Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.