Budget Committee Votes To Raise Property Tax 20 Cents

The Cannon County Commission's Budget Committee passed the actual proposed budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year Thursday night. The challenge though was working to find an agreeable way to fund the budget.  

The Committee, made up of Chairman Mark Barker, Clint Higgins, Kevin George, James Adkins and Bill Jennings, sat at the round table in the courtroom of the courthouse and discussed the various ways to fund the budget.  

According to the updated budget figures report, the Estimated Ending Fund Balance for FY 2010-2011 was $502,900.00.  If revenues do not increase during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the fund balance will end up in a estimated low $2,698.00.  State auditors suggest that a county store three months of operating expenses in the General Fund Balance.

Cannon County easily spends more money than the revenues it take in. Estimated Expenditures for the 2010-2011 year totaled $6,063,243.00, while total estimated revenue for the fiscal year equaled out to be $5,865,338.00. Estimated Revenues for the 2011-2012 fiscal year will only be $5,008,460.00 while the expenditures total out at $5,514.058.40.

One small minor cut was made to the budget Thursday night and that was in the line item of Maintenance Agreements of the Election Commission Office which was scaled back to the $11,611.00 figure that was budgeted last year.

 The Committee went over their thoughts on some of the larger budgeted departments in the county. Once again it was brought out that the County Ambulance Service has had a high expense going out to revenue coming in issue.

Ambulance Director Ricky Cope attended the meeting and assured the Committee he was doing the best job he could do but because of the low call volume, low revenue from Medicare payments, and ambulances having to transport patients outside of Cannon County, the issues would still exist.  There is a collection agency that is working to collect some of the money owed to the Ambulance Service by patients and insurance companies. This should have a positive impact on bringing in more revenue for the Ambulance Service.

County Solid Waste was talked about.  Per the report, total estimated revenues for the 2010-2011 fiscal year came out to be $505,488.00, with expenditures estimated at $515,757.00.  Estimated Ending Fund Balance for Solid Waste for the 2011-2012 fiscal year shows a negative $41,509.00 balance.

The Committee then started talking about ways to increase revenue as almost all County Departments either retained the same amount of money as last year's budget or made more cuts to turn in figures showing a decrease in their budgets from the year before.  This in itself showed the issue was one of revenue.

The Committee mentioned looking into increasing local sales tax to the level it is in neighboring counties. The possible solution would have to be put on a referendum in order for the public to vote.  

Next solution was a possible increase in property taxes. The Committee members debated that solution, but in the end all agreed that in order for the budget to be funded, a property tax increase had to be in order.  The current property tax rate is $2.32, which breaks down to 16 cents going to solid waste, 4 cents to the Debt Services, $1.22 going to County General with the remaining 89 cents going toward schools.

It was voted on amongst the committee members to recommend a 20 cent property tax increase, which will add 3 cents to solid waste, bringing the total to 19 cents. Debt Services will remain the same at 4 cents while the County General fund will get 16 cents of the increase, totalling $1.38. The Schools will receive a penny totalling 90 cents.

The property tax rate would then be $2.52, but as the Committee pointed out on an average property valued at $100,000 the property tax would only increase $50, breaking down even further to $1.00 a week.  

The Committee will present the budget recommendation for approval along with the separate request of budget funding to the full Cannon County Commissioners on July 16th.

County Executive Mike Gannon stated there have been Commissioners in the past that have been all for the budget requests but when it came time to vote for funding the budget, the same commissioners turned it down.  Both budget and funding of the budget will be voted on separately at the Saturday meeting.