No tax increase in Polk’s recommended budget

Published 10:50 am Friday, May 11, 2012

Employees could get 2.5 percent increase

Polk County Manager Ryan Whitson presented to commissioners on Monday, May 7 his budget proposal, which includes no tax increase and is slightly less than this year’s budget.

The proposed budget totals $24,986,571, which includes the general fund, capital improvements, special revenue funds and the enterprise fund for solid waste and water departments.

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After hearing that the proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2012-2013 reflects a 11.22-percent decrease from the current 2011-2012 amended general fund budget, commissioner Tom Pack said he wanted to compare “apples to apples” and asked what the approved budget was for 2011-2012.

The proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2013 is $20,710,248, which is 0.42 percent less than the approved general fund budget for fiscal year 2012, which was $20,797,175.

The proposed budget for 2012-2013 keeps the same property tax rate of 52 cents per $100 of valuation and includes a 2.5-percent salary increase for all employees, which is the first salary increase in three and a half years. The salary increase will be effective on July 1.

The budget also includes an additional $150,000 to the school system, $100,000 for county-wide water and water line extensions, $90,000 in fuel contingency and $200,000 for future Lake Adger dam repairs. Polk County began saving money several years ago in anticipation of future dam repairs and will have $600,000 saved at the end of next fiscal year.

“I expressed at the time of purchase (of Lake Adger) that this would need to be set aside annually as long as the county owns the dam and I am still of that mindset,” Whitson told commissioners.

Other expenditures in the manager’s recommendation include the purchase of a tractor for maintenance at the recreation park, a van for the recreation department and a backhoe for the solid waste department. Whitson said those purchases will be paid in full out of the budget instead of the county taking on expensive leases.

The budget also eliminates two positions in the department of social services (DSS). The position Lou Parton held before she became DSS director will not be filled and another open position will also not be filled. Whitson denied all requests for new positions except for agreeing to put $30,000 toward a new sheriff’s office investigator. The sheriff’s office originally requested three new positions.

Whitson also reviewed the county’s total real property valuation of $2,584,453,981, which is a 0.1 percent decrease of $2,777,558. The collection rate according to the 2011 audit was 97.16 percent, which is up from 96.78 percent the previous year, Whitson said. Based on the collection rate, Polk County should bring in $13,057,489 in real property revenue.

Motor vehicle valuation is also down to $130,681,246 from the previous year at $138,628,377. The collection rate for motor vehicles is down from the previous year from 89.29 percent to 88.29 percent. Polk County expects to collect $599,966 in revenue from motor vehicle tax.

Overall, with prior year tax collections included, the county is projected to collect $13,942,455 in property taxes, which is down $11,604 from the 2011-2012 approved budget. Sales tax is projected to increase slightly, projected at $1,929,657, which is an increase of two percent more than this year’s budget.

Commissioners decided to hold a special meeting to discuss the Harmon Field, fire departments and rescue squad budgets on May 15 at 7 p.m. This meeting was previously scheduled for May 16.

The county has scheduled a budget work session for June 4 at 6 p.m. prior to a regular meeting and another work session if necessary on June 5. The public hearing is scheduled for June 11 at 7 p.m. during a special meeting, and commissioners are scheduled to adopt the budget on June 18. The new budget year begins on July 1.