Continued uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on local tax revenues has delayed county supervisors’ usual votes on the next annual budget.
Typically, at this point in the year the Board of Supervisors’ finance committee would give County Administrator Tim Hemstreet updated guidance on preparing the next budget. It’s work that county staff members begin almost as soon as the previous budget is adpoted in early April, with supervisors checking in over the course of the year as revenue and expense projections evolve.
But those projections are more uncertain than ever with the pandemic. Already, since supervisors held their first vote in October setting targets for the next tax rate, the situation has changed. At that time, the equalized real estate tax rate—the rate at which the average property owner pays the same dollar figure in taxes despite changing property values—was $1.035 per $100 of assessed value, the same as the current tax rate, with a wide gulf between personal and commercial property values. While local tax revenue growth is still below previous years, today that rate is estimated at $1.02, reflecting an improved outlook.
“We’re continuing to see changes in the revenue projections even as we go through this process today,” Hemstreet told supervisors on Dec. 8.
He said he expects to ask supervisors to reaffirm their budget guidance at a Jan. 5 meeting. He said he expects to ask supervisors to vote to prepare a draft budget at the equalized real estate tax rate, with cuts and additions worth 1.5 cents in either direction on the tax rate. Under the current revenue estimates, each penny of the real estate tax rate equates to $9,675,000 in the county budget.
“We do not think it’s going to get any worse,” Hemstreet said. “So, the numbers are just going to continue to improve, is what we think is going to happen.”