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Jun 26, 2024

A Note From Bluffton Mayor Larry Toomer

Larry Toomer

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What does the new town budget mean to you?

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Town leaders know that many residents’ eyes glaze over when we speak of the three main ingredients to the town’s annual workplan. It may sound like “government speak” when budgets, strategic plans, and action items are mentioned. While the terms might seem boring, the projects that the town’s workplan produces might excite you. Let me break down the new fiscal budget, which began July 1, and how it might relate to you. 

The new approximately $90.6 million dollar budget aims to enhance various public services and infrastructure projects, reflecting the town’s commitment to maintaining its charm and improving the quality of life for its residents.

One of the most notable aspects of the new budget is the stability in property taxes. Since 2014, Bluffton has managed to keep property taxes steady, even reducing the millage rate in 2019 and 2023. For a typical house appraised at around $390,500, the town portion of the tax bill will remain approximately $677.32. This consistency provides financial predictability for homeowners, ensuring that the costs associated with property taxes do not increase unexpectedly.

The budget supports new projects such as the town’s new Welcome Center, which will be located at the Squire Pope Carriage House in Wright Family Park. The new Welcome Center is expected to open in early 2025. The Welcome Center will give residents and visitors an overview of Bluffton’s history, culture, spirit, natural resources, and attractions. 

The Squire Pope Carriage House is among Bluffton’s “contributing resources” with its historic significance of being one of the few structures that survived the 1863 Burning of Bluffton.

Thanks to a $1.35 million dollar federal grant and town funds, the Bluffton Police Department will replace its aging equipment, which will further equip the police department to provide safety, security, and more partnerships and events with the community.   

Residents will also see significant investments in public infrastructure. The Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Fund, totaling $32.3 million, prioritizes parks, stormwater, and sewer projects. This includes the Historic District sewer projects, Pritchard Street Drainage and Bridge Street Streetscape Improvement projects. Stormwater and sewer infrastructure projects, especially for the few town neighborhoods that weren’t pre-planned communities, protect the town’s and region’s natural resources.  

The Riverside Barn Park, the town’s largest park with more than 37 acres, is expected to open in late 2024, with the barn opening for events the following year. A much-anticipated splash pad will be installed at Oscar Frazier Park this summer. The New River Linear Trail will also receive a multi-million-dollar upgrade to pave half the width of the trail, making it more accessible to walkers, bikers, and those with mobility issues. 

The new budget also underscores Bluffton’s dedication to affordable housing. Projects like the Housing Assistance Program will continue to receive support, assisting income-qualified residents with necessary “safe and dry” home repairs. This program combats the compounding housing crisis, prevents blight, and keeps residents in safe homes.

Economic development is another key focus, with incentives available for businesses to locate in the fastest growing areas of Bluffton and the ongoing support for the Don Ryan Center for Innovation, the town’s economic development department and business incubator. 

The Town’s Economic Development Incentive Program (EDIP) provides a reduction in fees and utility costs for businesses that are relocating or locating west of Buckwalter Parkway, in an effort to bring more services to Bluffton’s fastest growing areas.  

As a reminder, the town is among five municipalities in the state with the highest bond rating for a town or city. This means the town can borrow money, if needed, at lower rates; this status gives credence to the town’s healthy financial status. 

Town officials thank each resident it serves as we strive continually to increase our high quality of life. We all enjoy projects that protect our natural resources, create parks and open spaces for neighbors to gather, and help each other when needed.  

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