Sunday, April 19, 2009

Currituck Not Likely To Raise Property Taxes

County Officials seem to think a tax increase would not be necessary this year. According to the Daily Advance article written by Jennifer Preyss, the county should be able to hold the line...and their breath.

By Jennifer Preyss
Staff Writer

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A tax increase seems unlikely this year in Currituck County, county officials told the board of commissioners.

“We’re still balancing numbers, but we’re not anticipating tax increases on anything,” Finance Director Sandra Hill said.

Hill and County Manager Dan Scanlon unveiled a portion of the 2009-10 spending plan at a work session last Monday.

The meeting was the first of several to be held in coming weeks, as the new seven-seat board prepares to adopt a budget by the end of June.

Because of the recession, spending is expected to remain light and tax increases appear unlikely in the coming year, Scanlon said.

The current 2008-09 budget of $47.9 million, adopted last June, held the line on taxes and fees. The property tax rate is 32 cents for every $100 of assessed value. Discussion last week centered on special revenue funds, which are dedicated for specific purposes.

For example, Scanlon presented balanced budgets for the fire equipment replacement fund, transfer tax capital fund, property revaluation funds, school capital and occupancy tax dollars.

Revaluation budget

One of the county’s annual spending priorities is transferring $121,000 from the general fund to the revaluation fund to pay for state-mandated property assessment appraisals, which determine property values.

Property appraisals are required at least every eight years, and can cost up to $1 million for computer software and outsourcing appraisers.

Currituck’s next revaluation effective date is not until Jan. 1, 2013, but the county will begin preparing for the next assessment as early as next year. The current estimated fund balance for the fund is $538,981.

Fire equipment fund

The fire equipment replacement fund sets aside money for buying and maintaining fire engines and equipment.

It has about $41,000 left over from when the county still taxed each of its fire districts. An additional $266,528 will be transferred from the general funds to the fire equipment balance.

Because the purchase of one replacement fire engine costs about as much as the total estimated actual 2009 balance of $418,156, Scanlon recommended the commissioners consider cutting operational costs of each fire station by $25,000, and routing that money to the fire equipment replacement fund.

“You heard each station say their equipment was in good shape,” Scanlon said, referring to a recent joint meeting with commissioners, fire station chiefs and the fire and emergency and medical services board.

Agreeing that cutting firehouse operational costs would benefit the county, Commissioner Barry Nelms said the stations will “make do with what they have to work with.”

Fire equipment funds may also go toward construction of a regional training facility for volunteer firefighters. Currently, firefighters travel to Virginia Beach for training, at a cost of $500 per week.

School capital fund

Commissioners also discussed spending options for the nearly $1.3 million in revenues left over in the school capital reserve fund from the construction of two new elementary schools in Moyock and Shawboro.

In all, roughly $3.4 million remains in the school facilities fund, which Commissioner Vance Aydlett suggested using to pay down the county’s $8 million debt from the Jarvisburg Elementary school completed in 2007.

Commissioners agreed the county may want to investigate other uses for the money, including the construction of a garage for county school busses and other vehicles to be mechanically serviced.

Tourism fund

Uncertain of the economy’s role in the tourism market this season, Scanlon said funds generated from the 6 percent occupancy tax may decline somewhat.

“We’re projecting a slight decrease in occupancy tax this year,” he said.

Approximately $2.6 million, or 2 percent of the total occupancy tax, will be used for tourism promotion, including $245,182 for departmental salaries.

Tourism Director Diane Nordstrom’s operating budget is about $2.2 million, which includes utilities, travel expenses, and $1.8 million specifically earmarked for advertising and promotional efforts.

The remaining 4 percent of the total occupancy dollars are used for tourism related efforts, such as the Corolla Wild Horse Fund.

Scanlon’s tourism-related budget proposal included a $75,000 for the Corolla Horse Fund, and $900,000 for Whalehead projects.

Another work session is scheduled for the next two concurrent Mondays to continue discussions on the general budget and county enterprises.

A final budget will be presented at a regular Board of Commissioners meeting near the end of May, or early June for approval. Commissioners must agree upon and adopt the budget by June 30. The a new budget will go into effect July 1.