Carroll revenue predicted to rise 7% in fiscal 1995

February 02, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

Carroll County's operating revenue is expected to increase 7.1 percent in the next fiscal year, which will help pay for road improvements and new schools, officials said yesterday.

However, the county commissioners continue to face tough choices.

Tomorrow, department heads begin telling the county commissioners how much money they'll need to operate in fiscal 1995, which begins July 1.

The department heads have requested $149.2 million for programs and salaries. County revenue is expected to increase next year to $139.5 million, said Steven D. Powell, Carroll's budget director.

The amount of the requests is 14.6 percent higher than the current year's $130.2 million operating budget.

Yesterday, Mr. Powell and his staff reviewed the requests with the three commissioners. Over the next three months, the commissioners will study the requests and probably trim many of them. They must vote on a budget in late May.

The commissioners have said their priorities for fiscal 1995 are construction of an $11 million Oklahoma Road Middle School and repairs to many county roads.

County officials hope the state will contribute $6 million toward the new school. If it doesn't, officials say, they will have to revise drastically the county budget to build the school, which is needed to ease crowding at Sykesville Middle School.

From fiscal 1993 to fiscal 1994, Carroll's revenue increased 8.8 percent, Mr. Powell said, adding, "Our annual revenues have fairly strong growth."

The two largest sources of county revenue are property and income taxes. Property taxes account for about 50 percent of Carroll revenue; income taxes account for about 30 percent. The remainder comes from such things as license and permit fees, fines and grants.

Next year, property taxes are projected to raise $71.4 million, or $4.9 million more than this fiscal year.

Property tax revenue in Carroll is not growing as fast as it did in recent years, Mr. Powell said, because the recession has resulted in lower property assessments and thus, lower tax payments.

"The good old days" of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when assessments grew from 12 percent to 14 percent a year, are gone, he said.

Every year, one-third of county properties are assessed. Recent assessments have reflected the slowed economy.

The properties assessed for fiscal 1993 showed 11.6 percent growth, while those assessed for fiscal 1994 showed 4.7 percent growth. Properties assessed for fiscal 1995 are expected to show 4.5 percent growth.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said yesterday that the decrease does not mean Carroll is losing money, but that growth is occurring at a slower rate.

Because slower growth is projected for fiscal 1995, the county decreased its projected property tax revenue estimate by $1.3 million, said Jeffrey K. Topper, operating budget and revenue supervisor.

Income tax revenue should rise to $40.9 million next year in Carroll, or $2.3 million more than in the current year.

The growth in income tax revenue is beginning to stabilize after peaking in fiscal 1987, Mr. Powell said. That revenue is expected to grow by 6 percent next year. In fiscal 1987, it grew about 15 percent. In fiscal 1992, growth hit a low of 3.4 percent.

Carroll income tax returns show that residents are earning more money, probably because the number of two-income families in the county continues to grow, he said.

"The growth in Carroll has been in incomes over $50,000," he said.

In fiscal 1987, about 15 percent of residents had incomes between $50,000 and $149,999. In fiscal 1992, the most recent year for which numbers are available, almost 25 percent of residents earned that much money, Mr. Powell said.

The percentage of residents with lower incomes decreased during that period. In fiscal 1987, 32 percent of residents earned between $3,000 and $19,999; in fiscal 1992, 24 percent did.

In fiscal 1987, 40 percent of residents earned between $20,000 and $49,999; in fiscal 1992, 35.5 percent did.

County department heads have asked for 43 new positions that, with salaries, benefits and other expenses, would cost an additional $1.3 million next year.

On Monday, Mr. Powell and his staff recommended county approval of $57.3 million on capital projects. The current year's capital budget is $32.6 million.

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