According to county Finance Manager Ramona Rummel, assessed valuations have decreased by $5,750,280 in 2012, representing a loss in county property tax revenue of $58,192. Closing out 2012, overall budgeted revenues are $655,075 less than what the county had estimated it would receive in 2012 and are even 3.5 percent below budgeted revenues for 2013.
Overall budgeted expenditures for 2013 are $1,552,499 less than 2012 budgeted expenditures and represents a 7.5 percent decrease. With revenues expected to come in at $17.6 million in 2013, the commissioners approved a budget that includes just over $19 million.
“We will be facing financial challenges as a direct result of decreasing assessed valuations,” Rummel said. “Those valuations drive our general fund revenues and those are a critical component to a balanced budget.”
Projected expenditures for 2013 exceed the projected revenue amount by approximately $74,887 and the county’s operating reserves will be needed to balance the 2013 general fund by that amount. The budget projects that at the end of 2013, the county will still have a healthy 95 percent reserve in its general fund. But Rummel believes those reserves will be needed to help offset projected future revenue shortages in the next five years.
Given the county’s budget challenges, a hiring freeze will remain in effect for 2013 and no positions will be filled without a cost benefit and workload analysis being presented and approved by the commissioners. There will also be no salary increases or merit increases for any county employee in 2013.
A total of $493,440 has been budgeted for community support requests in 2013, including $200,000 for the roundabout project on the Hwy. 145 Spur and $50,000 for EcoAction Partners.
The 2013 budget includes expenditures funded by several grants, including an $11,000 State Criminal Alien and Assistance Program grant, a $44,900 Emergency Management Grant, and a $35,000 State Historical Grant for the Trout Lake Water Tank.
The county’s Social Services expenditures for 2013 are expected to be up approximately two percent compared to 2012 as its programs continue to see an increased number of clients.
According to Rummel, sales tax is estimated to increase in 2013 by .32 percent. The severance tax for 2013 will be allocated to the General Fund instead of the Sales Tax Fund beginning Jan. 1.
Looking to the future, Rummel said federal Payments In Lieu of Taxes remain “a wildcard” as the U.S. Congress continues to debate the federal budget.
“We can’t get a real good feel on PILT,” she said. “The future of PILT is unknown and that, coupled with declining property tax values is what will be challenging us to come up with a balanced budget in the future.”