Three weeks until the next meeting…. What is there to do?
It looks like we will have a few weeks before we get to enjoy our next “Point of Order” from the commission. So with this time, we should consider the state of the budget and what the next year will look like.
Going back to the beginning of the year, the Chairman started to condition people for a tax increase. It was reported that when he gave his state of the county address to the Republican Party, the chairman said; “That might include having to go up on taxes. That’s what you’re going to be faced with. There are always areas to cut spending, but if we have to cut 20 percent, that means shutting down fire station, patrol units and personnel. What we have to be careful with is keeping that balance. Balance has to be sacred.” The fact is, the Chairman has been straight forward when he said; “You’re going to have to go up on taxes. You don’t like it but that’s what you’re going to be faced with.”
So why paint the picture? Well, let’s start by looking at the primary revenues for the County. From the 2011 budget:
Licenses and permits $2,493,371
Fines and forfeitures $4,836,263
Charges for services $3,545,465
Interest income $37,681
Operating transfers $388,824
Total Revenues $90,425,876
So 74% of the budget comes from Taxes. The taxes come from 2 basic sources: Property Tax and LOST (Local Option Sales Tax). LOST was put in place back in the 80’s as a 1 penny sales tax used specifically to reduce property tax, so you can really say that it is all property tax. It appears that there is a public meeting this Wednesday to discuss the fact that the tax digest may be in real trouble. “The purpose of the meeting is to bring together the Board of Assessors, Tax Commissioner and county Financial Services to provide information to all Hall County taxing authorities on the 2011 tax digest. New state law requires that all taxpayers be sent an assessment notice yearly. This new requirement likely will lead to many more tax appeals in 2011, which could then lower the taxable values on the digest. In addition to the legislative changes, local governments also face declining values in real estate that continue to impact Hall County property tax revenue.”
My guess is that the Tax Assessors are going to say something like, “we tried to keep property values up, but that darned state legislature is making us tell everyone that they are over assessed so they can all appeal. We know that everyone has at least 1 foreclosure or short sale on their street, so sorry, the tax digest is going down by 20%.” Instead of a steady decline over the past several years that we should have seen, we will see it all hit in 1 fatal shot.
To compound the news, I expect that the commission will feel justified in raising taxes because they will say that since the digest is down, it will be a net 0 impact. Unfortunately, the commission will now ask for the money to end furloughs, pay retirements, give raises and pay for all the crazy building they have been doing for the past several years. Hang on friends, this will be a fun ride.
Hugh Hall County Akston