(April 17, 2015) Last week as the County Commissioners decided to put off the amount they were considering raising taxes to meet an expected $22 million shortfall, the magic numbers were 6.7 cents per $100 and 14.4 cents per $100 of assessed value. This week, as they finalized the advertisement, those numbers increased.
The county is required by law to advertise any proposed increase to the tax rate above the constant yield rate, or what the government is able to collect year over year to bring in the same amount of revenue. This year, the constant yield rate had been determined to be 77.55 cents per $100 of assessed value, an increase from last year’s rate of 77 cents even.
To fund absolutely everything at the requested levels, the county now reports and will advertise a jump of 15.7 cents. Several high-ranking officials within the county have said this large of an increase is unlikely.
County Budget Officer Kathy Whited explained the differences in the numbers as differences in what state law requires to be advertised to the citizens. The 14.4 number was derived from the real property tax plus other inclusions such as corporate and railroad taxes in the rate.
The newer larger number, Whited said, is based only on the real property rate alone, which is the number the county is obligated to advertise.
“[T]he revenue shortfall of $22,340,492 … would need a tax rate of $.9325 per $100 of assessment … to generate an additional $22,381,380 in FY2016,” Whited wrote in a memo to the commissioners.
Also in play are the $9-10 million in estimated reserve funds still available to the commissioners. As those funds are the last to be tapped once the coffers run dry, the actual amount left will likely not be known until the next fiscal year.
Anemic gains to assessments are expected until 2019, when Ocean City is reassessed.
That’s the revenue side, while the expense side of the ledger is still taking shape. The county has scheduled several work sessions over the next few months to review expenses.
The advertisement is intended to generate interest for the public, and to invite comment at a hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 5 at Snow Hill Middle School.