Data recently released by the Cumberland County Property Assessors Office shows that every penny of the county tax rate generates $ 154,277 in revenue. That’s a slight plus over last year’s per-penny sales of $ 152,930.
If the county holds its property tax rate constant, it projects a recovery of $ 24.1 million in fiscal year 2021/22.
“The numbers we’re looking at represent an increase of less than 1% over the previous year. … At first the number seems to be a bit low compared to some previous years. We worked with the property appraisal bureau and they checked the numbers and worked with the state. They believe the numbers are correct, ”said Nathan Brock, the county’s finance director, during the June 17th session.
Assistant real estate appraiser Sandy Gilbert, who ran the office after Lori Powell’s death in May, reported a total of $ 1.6 billion in real estate valuations. Estimates are 0.88% higher than last fiscal year, up $ 210,861 year over year assuming the same tax rate.
The sums come after the June Cumberland County Board of Equalization hearing.
6th District Commissioner Joe Sherrill was surprised by property tax projections as house prices rose across the county.
“The housing market has gone crazy. But it doesn’t look like it went up that much, ”Sherrill said.
Brock said the county has traditionally seen property tax growth of 1.5-2% each year. However, he said that some major developments have seen major adjustments over the past year.
“It was decided that they were eligible for these, and these are multi-million dollar developments. That has an impact, ”said Brock.
Gilbert said some properties had been pending for several years and were resolved by Powell last year.
The county will conduct a nationwide property appraisal next year that could increase property value and appraisal values. However, the state calculates a certified tax rate that brings the county income similar to what it was before the revaluation. Property owners can pay more, less, or roughly the same amount in property taxes. The certified tax rate would be released for the 2022-23 tax rate.
Gilbert said the office was now working on the reassessment.
Cumberland County’s current tax rate of $ 1.5653 per $ 100 of estimated value will generate an estimated $ 23.9 million in revenue for the fiscal year ended June 30. In June, Brock reported that 99.9% of budgeted property tax had been collected for the year.
Brock said the tax office will build the county budget around the net penny and current tax rate, but there may be an opportunity to shift allocations between the county’s various funds thanks to “robust” sales tax collections.
The property tax is divided between the general fund budget of the district, the waste department, the schools and the district debt service. Last year the county allocated $ 10.4 million to the general fund, with additional income from local option sales tax, hotel / motel tax, litigation tax, business tax, mixed beverage tax, bank excise tax, wholesale beer tax, and interstate telecommunications tax . for $ 14.2 million in revenue last year. Fines, fees and permits, fees for services, and state and federal funding, the county had revenues of $ 28.1 million last year.
For the school budget, the county allocated $ 7.6 million in property taxes and $ 10.2 million in sales taxes to meet the local state minimum funding for the school system of $ 18.3 million, with additional funding from tax collections from the previous year, tax receipts for mixed drinks and other local taxes.
Sales tax surveys exceeded budget projections for the 2020-21 budget with $ 10 million collected through May. The current collections are about $ 1.2 million over budget.
“Most of the local option sales tax in Cumberland County goes to the Education Committee,” Brock said. “When those dollars go up, property tax dependency goes down. That gives you a certain amount of flexibility. “
He said it was possible that real estate tax reassignment could cover increased staff costs through a proposed raise for county employees without additional revenue.
If the commission left the distribution of property tax unchanged in the upcoming budget, the school system would receive $ 7.7 million in local property tax funding in exchange for a state-mandated contribution of $ 18.7 million.
Brock said his office would be advised by the budget committee on how to split property tax and sales tax across different funds.
One of the challenges in forecasting sales tax revenues for the next year is the inflow of federal COVID-19 aids over the past year.
According to data on the collection of value-added tax, the district exceeded revenue projections every month in the past fiscal year. In May, the county reported $ 1.17 million in sales tax collections – $ 302,295 above budget guidance.
The sales tax surveys represent retail activity from two months earlier. The May numbers represent March sales when many families began receiving the third round of stimulus payments.
The county raised $ 1.27 million in February – the equivalent of December revenue – which was $ 193,816 above budget projections.
Brock said the county prefers a conservative forecast of sales tax revenues. He recommended using the current year’s collections with a percentage increase.
“I would suggest no less than 1%. You might want to consider a 2-3% increase, ”he said. “How sustainable this will be for the next few years is unknown, but as more and more stimulus money comes onto the market, this has a positive effect on retail sales.”
However, if sales tax revenue doesn’t meet projections, the county may need to make up the difference in collections and budgeted school funding.
Rebecca Stone, commissioner for the 3rd district, said a lot of people had moved to the county.
“How soon will that show up? Property taxes are a predictable, stable number. It’s not sales tax, ”she said. “I would tend to project what I really thought would be that will be higher and closer to what the state is projecting. And keep that balance in mind.
“Once you’ve set property taxes, you can’t take them away. So if you pull a few cents away from the schools, keep this cushion in case the sales tax doesn’t do anything. “
Brock said he hasn’t seen any forecasts from the state for sales tax. Cumberland County’s Mayor Allen Foster said he would check with the state for a starting point.
Brock said: “[The state’s] Crystal ball is probably better than the county’s. “
District Commissioner Kyle Davis decided to draft the district budget with a 2% increase in sales tax revenue, backed by Sherrill. The application was approved.
The committee will meet at 4:30 pm on July 13 to review the draft budget and re-examine nonprofit funding applications before preparing a budget proposal for consideration by the entire Cumberland County Commission.
It is tentatively planned to review the proposed budget and vote on its recommendation on July 20th at 4:30 p.m.
Sessions are held at the Cumberland County Courthouse, 2 N. Main St., and are open to the public.