Some Carroll County citizens will pay less in real estate taxes than in year’s past, while others will pay less, but by code definition Carroll County’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014 includes no tax increase.
Taxes will be adjusted to 68 cents per $100 of real estate valuation, up from 59.5 cents in recent years, after property values in the county declined for the first time in three decades after the county’s recent reassessment. That will make the county’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget revenue neutral, said Catherine Dalton, the county’s financial management director.
“You may wonder what is revenue neutral, and that is the rate that would be required to produce the same amount of revenue in the next fiscal year as if real estate had not been reassessed,” Dalton said. “And we calculated the revenue neutral rate as (68 cents) and that was pursuant to Virginia Code. And that is versus our Fiscal Year 2013 rate of (59.5 cents).”
Dalton said the main goal in building the county’s budget was to maintain a revenue-neutral budget, which she said was quite a challenge given the recent reassessment. Aggressive and increased collection of delinquent taxes was also a focus among this year’s budget considerations, she said.
Many personnel considerations also had to be made in constructing the proposed budget, Dalton said, including a health insurance rate increase of 3.4 percent that was passed on to county employees, and the creation of a natural gas utilities specialist, which she said was required. To help deal with those challenges, she said the county is leaving vacant positions unfilled and combining the responsibilities of Erosion and Sediment personnel to oversee the mandated Stormwater Management program.
To help deal with the growing costs of fuel and electricity, she said the budget reduces funding of approved Capital Improvement Program items.
Education is the biggest expenditure in the proposed budget at 29 percent, while public safety makes up 18 percent of total county expenditures, the same percent as a category for debt service, CIP and the airport. Total proposed expenditures for Fiscal Year 2014 are broken down as follows: $11,377,935 for education, $7,050,481 to debt service, CIP and airport, $6,985,176 for public safety, $5,280,265 for health and welfare, $2,612,946 for public works, $2,371,698 for general government, $1,374,456 for Judicial Administration, $1,233,110 for community development, and $826,538 to parks, recreation and cultural.
The majority of proposed revenues (56 percent) comes from general property taxes, which Dalton said is a “Catch 22” after reassessment. Revenue from the Commonwealth represents 13 percent of revenue, with 4 percent of revenue coming from the Federal Government, 11 percent from other local taxes, and 10 percent from recovered costs. With total projected revenues at $39,112,605, Dalton said the county has a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
Additionally, the Compensation Board has a projected 3 percent increase for constitutional officers and funded positions, Dalton said.
To give an idea on how local tax dollars are spent, Dalton provided a graph showing 44 cents of each local tax dollar goes toward education, 20 cents goes to airport, debt service and CIP, 12 cents goes to public safety, eight cents to general government, five cents to public works, four cents to health and welfare, three cents to parks, recreation and cultural, and two cents each to community development and judicial administration.
“To just give a quick recap, this is a revenue-neutral budget, we are proposing school board funding at over 98 percent of their total request, and we have a greater emphasis on the collection of delinquent taxes than before,” Dalton said.
Supervisors will hold a public hearing April 22 at 7 p.m. for the county budget as well as the proposed real estate tax levy of 68 cents per $100. The board is also scheduled to adopt the school budget that evening.
During Supervisors’ Time, Supervisor Dr. Tom Littrell talked about the challenges faced by the county’s budget committee this year.
“The budget committee has had some really challenging times this year with reassessment and some other things, and I was pleased to see we are able to keep revenue neutral,” Littrell said. “That is probably going to make some people very happy if their reassessment was below average, and it may make some folks, if their reassessment was above average, a little disappointed, but that was the best we could do.”