We are entering a very interesting and highly important time on County Council – budget preparation.

To many, this is probably one of the most boring snooze-fests there is, and I completely get that, but it is also arguably the most important activity.

As vice chairman of the Finance Committee, I am eagerly awaiting this process.

We have so many things to think about and discuss, especially coming out of Hurricane Matthew. We could possibly see complete damages in excess of $85 million dollars countywide, and that dollar amount could go up.

This includes the Hilton Head Island damages as well as “guesstimated” marine damages.

We hope FEMA will reimburse for the advertised amounts and hope the state will do the same, but I am a firm believer in not cashing a check until you have it.

The county will have depleted its fund balance and yes, that needs to be replenished. That number will most likely be somewhere in the $22 million to $28 million range.

There are also many state unfunded mandates that Beaufort County is forced to put into place, by the State of South Carolina, and unfortunately, you and I, the taxpayers, are going to have to be the ones to pay for them.

Someone recently asked me, “Why do we have these state unfunded mandates and what if we just don’t do them?” Well, the latter part of the question isn’t up for discussion, as the General Assembly mandates them.

These mandates are pieces of legislation passed and laws enacted by the General Assembly on a myriad of levels, making the local governments responsible for the financial obligations.

What the question should be is, “Why doesn’t the General Assembly fund the local government to pay for these mandates?”

That question should continue to be asked of our local state delegation continuously.

Finally, business license reform is high on my list during the budget process. The General Assembly is debating H.3650 right now and, for the most part, it is a good law addressing the statewide issues of business license reform.

However, there are parts of the Bill that don’t address the main points of contention that many small businesses have:

  1. The tax is on the gross revenue and not the net revenue. That is just plain crazy.
  2. For those businesses that operate in multiple locations (landscapers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, advertising agencies, etc.) they have to have a business license in every county and municipality in which they do business.

I am standing up for those small businesses to say “This is not right, this is not fair, and we are tired of it.”

Stay closely tuned to County Council as this subject is moved front and center this spring.

Michael E. Covert represents District 7 on Beaufort County Council. He can be reached by emailing mcovert@bcgov.net.