What to Make of 2013 County Budget?

Tomorrow evening the County Chief Executive is expected to present the budget for 2013. This will be the first budget for the current Executive as this year’s budget was enacted in December of 2011 after he was elected but before he took office. The budget was unsigned by the previous Executive and contained a 21% property tax hike.

This year’s plan is expected to finish out at $784 million: the bulk of it, $676 million, is in the general fund, $76 million in debt service, $4 million in liquid fuels fund, and $27 million in the transit support fund.

2011’s budget dipped slightly from 2010: $767 million from $773 million. The coming year is going to be based upon new property values and the readjustment of the millage rate. Will the Executive propose a tax increase following the reassessment and the revenue neutral rate? It is possible for the County to take 5% more than it would collect in property tax revenue this year, but that has to happen in a separate vote. Going higher requires the permission of the courts.

Beyond that, the 2013 budget will be the first to receive money from the impact fee on horizontal drilling for natural gas. According to our estimates and those from the state the County is expected to receive $79,000 from drilling, and about $1 million set aside from the "legacy fund". The use of those revenue is spelled out in Act 13, with legacy fund dollars specifically tied to environmental purposes.