Your tax headache might get better

May. 02, 2013 @ 10:22 AM

The county’s budget gap apparently is shrinking and Commissioner Bruce Davis is glad to hear that because it could reduce your property tax headache next year.

For months, the Board of Commissioners has been working with the assumption that the county faces a $41 million budget shortfall for the 2014 budget. That was based on figures provided by former County Manager Brenda Jones-Fox. The new number, after some recalculations, is closer to $14 million.
“The new number is easier to deal with,” said Davis, a High Point Democrat and county budget committee member. “It never should have been $41 million. I think now we can work down the budget so we don’t have to have a tax increase.”
Commissioners will meet Thursday and Friday to look over the committee’s work.
The county faces more cuts because the Great Recession has driven down sales tax revenue which has remained flat at $65 million. The county’s $45.4 billion property tax base grew at just 1.9 percent last year.
The Jones-Fox estimate included paying for capital improvements and starting a pay-go savings plan so that the county would not have to borrow money for all major improvement projects.  For the last few months, commissioners have considered delaying school construction bond sales and other major projects to avoid adding debt. Delaying bond sales for a year could save $10 million to $14 million.
Guilford County’s outstanding debt as of June 30 totaled $901 million. Debt payments account for about 16 percent of the county budget.
The budget committee is working with a list of mandated services and those the county does not by law have to provide and could cut. Earlier, county department heads were asked to provide budget estimates including a 15 percent cut.
Republican Commissioner Jeff Phillips, budget committee chairman, has pressed department leaders for comments on the “non-mandated” list.  If all the expenses were cut, the county could save $30 million of the $40 million the county would pay for services, ranging from parks and recreation and the money the county provides almost every year to libraries and arts and culture organizations. 
Health department and DSS leaders say that further cuts would damage service.   Phillips has said several times that the committee is working in great detail to avoid surprises later.
“We need to know what the projections will  be,” he said. 

Guilford Budget 2014
Debt: The county debt payment could grow to $106 million in 2014, or 16 percent of the budget. Debt payments won’t drop below 15 percent of the county budget until 2018 unless revenues start to improve greatly. 

Current Budget: $588 million for operations; property tax rate, 78.04 cents per $100 valuation. The owner of a $100,000 house pays $780.04 a year in property taxes.