With every county and town in the State having to make tough budget decisions, Currituck County managed to get it done without raising taxes or laying off numerous county employees. Bravo. Below is an article from the Daily Advance's Cindy Beamon:
No tax hike in $45M Currituck budget
By Cindy Beamon
Friday, May 28, 2010
CURRITUCK — Property owners won’t be paying a higher tax rate and no county employees will be losing their jobs, but that doesn’t mean Currituck County residents won’t see the effects of a tough economy in next year’s proposed $45 million county budget.
The county expects to receive less money from property taxes in fiscal year 2010-11, but it will manage the shortfall by making cuts to departmental budgets, County Manager Dan Scanlon said this week.
The county will spend 7 percent less than it did last year, mostly by cutting out or delaying purchases of technology, educational courses, travel and other operating expenses, Scanlon said. Also, capital outlay spending will drop about 25 percent as the county pares back on major construction projects.
Income from property taxes is expected to decrease — not because of lower property values or lower tax rates but because the county anticipates it will not be able to collect as many taxes from property owners in financial trouble. Last year the county anticipated it would collect 98 percent of taxes due; this year, that figure has dropped to 96 percent. The 2 percent difference in collections accounts for about $300,000 less than in earlier projections.
Property taxes, currently assessed at 32 cents per $100 valuation, account for more than half the revenue in next year’s proposed budget. State sales tax revenue, another important source of income for the county, has remained flat, Scanlon said.
The shortfall in funds has forced the county to tighten spending, but the county should be able to retain its 359 employees and absorb most of the increased costs for health care and other benefits, he said. No cost-of-living pay increases are included.
“I want to give the departments a lot of credit for understanding the dire economic conditions,” Scanlon said. “We were asking them to go back through their budgets to see what items they could cut, what items they could delay, and I think they did a great job.”
Also feeling the pinch will be the Currituck County Schools, which will face a $134,773 reduction in county funds earmarked for instructional use. Two factors have contributed to the reduction — lowered inflation and fewer students, Scanlon said. For several years, the county has calculated its funding based on the number of students attending schools and the rate of inflation. Next year, the number of students is expected to drop by 45 and inflation is down, which reduces the county’s contribution.
The reduction in local funds for education may foreshadow a shortfall at the state level as well. The school system is awaiting word from the General Assembly before determining its final budget for the coming year.
At the local level, school funding for capital outlay will also take a hit because of a reduction in sales tax revenues. During 2009-10, the schools received $1.1 million in sales tax revenue from the county; next year it will be down to $990,000.
Even with these reductions, the county has managed to tuck away $1 million for future school construction projects. No immediate project is under way, but the county needs to continue saving for future projects, Scanlon said.
In addition to the general fund budget, the county is projected to operate an $8.7 million tourism budget fueled by occupancy tax revenue. By law, those revenues must be used to promote tourism and tourism-related expenditures. Occupancy tax collections are down from the previous year because of reduced bookings and discounted rentals on the Outer Banks last year.