“We have a challenging revenue picture before us,” Mitch Meredith, the county’s director of finance and administration, told commissioners during an electronic meeting.
He said the county’s general fund budget is facing a $2.6 million deficit in the new budget year.
Meredith said the growth rate for county property taxes remains flat, with Washington County estimated to collect $222,330 less in those revenues for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. The county had originally projected one penny on its $2.15 property tax rate to generate nearly $328,000 for the budget.
Successful appeals by homeowners to state-mandated property reappraisals last year, a decline in the tax collection rate and issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have seen that figure drop to nearly $325,000.
As a result, Meredith said revenues are projected to be $40.1 million for the general fund in the new budget year. At the same time, county departments have submitted spending requests that exceed $42.7 million.
Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy and the county’s Budget Committee have asked all county department heads, elected officials and related agencies to trim 5% from their budget requests in the new fiscal year.
Commissioner Freddie Malone said he and other members of the Budget Committee are looking for direction from their colleagues on how to proceed with the new budget. Malone said the county has three options — raise revenues by increasing taxes or fees, reducing expenses by cutting personnel and services or a combination of the two.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Phill Carriger said it has become evident that the “cost of doing business” in Washington County is growing faster than the county’s population and ability to grow tax revenues.
“It has caught up with us,” he said. “Our focus should be finding ways to encourage growth and entrepreneurship.”