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County Council, May 19

Millage increase proposed in General Fund budget
Strong property tax revenue not enough to offset all appropriations
Warwick Jones

Staff gave an outline of its proposed 2016 budget at the special Finance Committee meeting yesterday. Expansion of the library system and new hires under Public Safety would significantly lift expenditures. To balance the General Fund, staff recommended an increase in the millage rate from 40.7 to 44. 7. This would represent a tax increase of $160 on a residence valued at a million dollars.

Not all Council members were happy with the staff recommendation. They asked staff to look to ways to avoid the tax increase. The first reading of the budget ordinance will be on May 28. We would expect some serious discussion at that time.

In the General Fund, staff anticipated healthy growth of revenues in the fiscal year to June 2016. Total revenues were projected at $214.7 million, up 9% over that of this year. Predictably, strong property tax growth provided the impetus. Property taxes are projected at $146.9 million, up 11% from this year’s projected $132.9 million. Higher interest, fee and license income also helped, rising from $13.9 million this year to $17.4 million next year. However, similar to previous years, the projected contribution from Intergovernmental (the state) was down from $22.3 million this year to $19.8 million for next.

The hefty growth in projected tax revenues was accompanied by a heftier growth in projected spending, or strictly speaking, a transfer out. Of the $18.8 million increase in General Fund spending, $10 million is attributable to provision for the expansion and renovation of the County libraries. (Recall the recent referendum approving this program and likely millage increase) Staff addressed the transfer noting that it was complex. It reflected an effort to reduce the future impact on the millage from the library program and by making earlier provisions. We are not sure anybody understood the accounting but Council gave staff the benefit of any doubt.

Other contributors to the projected spending increase were

  • $2.5 million for personnel. This included the hiring of 80 full time employees, the start of merit pay, and the maintenance of existing benefits.
  • $2.1 million in operating spending. This related largely to Facilities and Technological Services maintenance.
  • $4.2 million for Capital. This related to equipment replacement, technology replacement and upgrades, and start up equipment and vehicles for EMS and Sheriff’s department.

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