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Carroll to adjust tax rate in new budget

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Property values dropped for first time in three decades, which will affect the 2014 county budget.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Adjusting the real estate tax rate to 68 cents per $100 will make it “revenue neutral” after Carroll County experienced the first drop in property values in three decades, according to a budget presentation at Monday’s supervisors’ meeting.
The reassessment conducted by Wampler-Eanes Appraisal Group reflected a 12 percent decrease in total taxable property values as compared to 2012, the firm’s final report said. The total value came in at $2.33 billion.
In giving the fiscal year 2014 proposal Monday, Catherine Dalton, financial management director, stressed that the $39.11 million budget is balanced.
County officials expected this drop in real estate values of $277 million would cause tax revenues to decrease by as much as $1.65 million.
“One of the main goals is maintaining a revenue neutral budget,” she said. “Given the reassessment that we’d just gone through, that was quite a challenge.”
“Revenue neutral tax rate 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,” according to the budget proposal.
Staff was able to propose a revenue neutral budget despite several challenges, ranging from the reassessment and a health insurance rate increase of 3.4 percent, to mandates for personnel to oversee a storm water management program and the creation of a natural gas utilities specialist, as well as fuel costs that continue to increase, Dalton said.
County officials dealt with these challenges by leaving vacant positions unfilled, passing the insurance increases along to the employees, combining the storm water management responsibilities with the erosion and sediment control personnel and reducing funding for capital improvement project items.
Carroll officials expect stable revenue collections, as well as aggressive action to increase collection of delinquent taxes, Dalton said.
The lion’s share of tax revenue — 56 percent — comes from property taxes, Dalton noted. That’s compared to 13 percent of all revenue coming from the state and 4 percent coming from the federal government, along with various other fees, fines and “recovered costs.”
Dalton noted that aid to locality reductions from the state will not be in place for 2014, and the compensation board has a 3 percent increase for constitutional officers and their funded positions.
In breaking down what Carroll County spends its money on, Dalton said that 44 cents of every dollar goes to education.
The budget proposal funds 98 percent of the school board’s budget request, she said.
In other budget-related action, the supervisors set a public hearing on the county budget for April 22 at 7 p.m. and voted to advertise the proposed tax rate.
Though the supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed school board budget Monday, no one spoke on that subject.