Property values ‘coming back up’

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By Nick Nunn staff writer

Morgan County Chief Appraiser Chuck Anglin estimated that property values in Morgan County could increase up to from 25 to thirty percent over the next two years. He stated that the gross digest has increased 15 percent and the net digest is up 20 percent, reflecting values equivalent to those in 2010. “A lot of people’s property did increase,” said Anglin. Morgan County Finance Director Lorie Sayer said that, because of the property value increases, the amount that a mil generates will increase from $628,000 in FY 2014 to $727,500 in FY 2015. “It’s coming back up,” said Sayer. She stated that the increase in property values would translate into an approximate increase of one and one-quarter mills in the millage rate “without taking the rollback and millage rate staying the same.” Sayer explained what the estimated 18 percent increase in home values would mean to the average homeowner in Morgan County. In FY 2014, the median home value of approximately $184,700 would generate approximately $682 in taxes. With the 18 percent increase in value, however, that number would rise to $808 with no millage increase. If the county increased the millage rate half a mill, that value would then increase to almost $851. Sayer said that the budgeted expenditures will be $14,800,00 for FY 2015, but the total budget will be for approximately $20,200,000. She added that the county is at 16.69 percent of its fund balance usage and that it is recommended that they do not let the fund balance drop below 15 percent. However, she said that the county is “reaching a point” to where fund balance usage will no longer be necessary for balancing the budget.

Sayer presented three options for the FY 2015 that would keep the fund balance above 15 percent. The first was that the county keep the millage rate at its current rate and utilize onetime revenues in the amount of $880,000 in order to keep the fund balance at its current level of 16.69 percent. The second option would be to increase the millage rate by one-quarter mill, use 1.69 percent of the fund balance – $253,000 – and use approximately $445,000 of the onetime revenues. The third option would be to increase the millage rate by half a mill, use the 1.69 percent of the fund balance, and use only $263,500 of the onetime revenue to balance the budget. Both options two and three depend on property values to increase 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively, during FY 2015 in order to balance FY 2016 and keep the fund balance at 15 percent, providing that expenses are flat and the remainder of the onetime revenue is expended. Sayers said that the finance department was looking into a millage increase but will have to reevaluate its estimates based on Anglin’s estimate regarding the increase in property values.

“Taking into consideration the rising cost of health care and other benefits, we have to look into the 2016 budget to determine how we can narrow the deficit and stay within the recommended range for remaining fund balance,” said Sayer. ayer stated during the workshop that the revenue increases during FY 14 totaled more than $2,300,000, which included in increase in property taxes of approximately $906,000 and $295,000 in net title ad valorem taxes. The county also brought in $480,000 in onetime revenues from property sales to the city of Madison and back payment from Super CUVA. Morgan County’s expenditure increases over FY 2014 totaled approximately $863,000, with the largest increases being $173,726 due to a 15 percent increase in health insurance and $150,000 to the hospital for physician recruitment. BOC Chair Andrew Ainslie said that the budget numbers and estimated property value increases were “a lot to think about,” and County Manager Michael Lamar said that they were looking to create a “broad brush” view of the larger budgetary decisions to be made at this time. The second budget workshop is scheduled for May 20, following the BOC’s work session. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held on May 27 at 5 p.m., and the budget will be adopted on June 3 as part of the BOC’s regular meeting.

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