Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Carroll County Board of Supervisors plans to cut property taxes for a second straight year and continue to draw down its reserve funds, according to a proposed $19.1 million budget that is set for a vote next month.

The county would spend about $2.4 million more than it receives next fiscal year — which starts July 1 — to cut its reserves, which are expected to be about $8.8 million at the end of June.

County leaders have said that the reserves are too high. State law does not require cities and counties to have a specific amount of money on-hand, but municipalities have long used a 25-percent rule — that is, their goal was to keep a reserve balance of 25 percent of the annual budget.

If the supervisors’ plan is successful, the reserve-fund balance in June 2013 will be 33 percent of the county’s total planned expenditures.

A public hearing to receive resident feedback on the budget is set for 10 a.m. March 12 at the county courthouse in Carroll. The board will then vote to approve the issue, county Auditor Joan Schettler said.

The property-tax cut would save the average resident about $25, according to a Daily Times Herald analysis.

The county’s proposed tax-levy rate for city homeowners is $4.53 per $1,000 of taxable property valuation. Rural residents would pay $7.46.

Those numbers are down 10 and 7 percent, respectively.

Despite the tax cuts, the county projects its tax revenue will rise slightly because its tax base has increased $88 million to $1.06 billion, Schettler said.

The county is expected to release next week a more detailed look at the proposed budget.

The supervisors talked Tuesday about the budget and focused on the county’s mental-health services. State legislators have proposed a dramatic change to how such services are provided to the state’s indigent residents — those who don’t have insurance or the resources to pay for the care themselves.

The proposal, which isn’t expected to gain approval this legislative session, is expected to move the burden of providing the services from the county to the state. But the move is also expected to require counties to give up their mental-health reserve funds and transfer that money to the state.

County leaders would like to keep the money, but “I don’t want to drop this levy down to nothing then have the state do nothing,” Supervisor Dan Nieland said.

The county has about $1.3 million in mental-health reserves.

“We have to look out for the well-being of the clients,” Supervisor Marty Danzer said.

In other supervisors news:

— The board set a public hearing for 10 a.m. March 5 to discuss an underage tobacco sale at Corner Station near Templeton. The store faces a county fine of $300 for the violation. The store failed a statewide tobacco-sale compliance check in January by state officials. No other details were immediately available.

— The supervisors approved a contract with Bresnahan Well Drilling for $6,350 to drill a well at the Maple River Wastewater Treatment Site.