Sheriff might not get new Hilton Head deputies in next budget

BY ZACH MURDOCK
May 12, 2015

New police officers might not be added on Hilton Head Island this year to keep the town’s budget balanced.

Town leaders plan to pass on Sheriff P.J. Tanner’s request for four new Hilton Head patrol officers and one new investigator as the town tries to hold its departments’ and partner organizations’ costs level next year.

Hiring those new officers and buying the patrol cars and equipment that go with them would cost the town about $715,000 next year, and the town cannot afford it, town administrators said at a budget workshop Tuesday evening.

The decision to forgo the additional force means the new budget, which will take effect July 1, would not call for a tax increase, but it does include drawing up to $1.2 million from the town’s savings account, according to town documents.

In addition to the new officers, Tanner asked for more than $150,000 for radar equipment and a speed-trap trailer to collect data on where drivers speed around the island, he said.

The only increase the town is considering, however, will be $134,646 in increased health insurance costs and cost-of-living adjustments for the Hilton Head division’s 40 employees.

Town Council will consider whether to add another $75,000 to the budget later this month for new holding cells at the sheriff’s island facility, but those cells have not yet been certified by the S.C. Department of Corrections, Tanner said.

Tuesday’s workshop was the first in a series of meetings Town Council will have about its budget this month. This week the council considered contributions to its partner organizations.

The affiliates largely would receive only a few thousand dollars more or less than each did last year, for a minimal $96,200 increase across all of the groups. The affiliates include the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office Drug Court and Career Criminal Program, the University of South Carolina Beaufort Event Management and Hospitality Training Program, the town Economic Development Corporation, Shore Beach Services, Coastal Discovery Museum, Island Recreation Association, Palmetto Breeze, and the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry Public Art Exhibition.

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