No property tax rate increase is anticipated when Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz releases his tentative budget for 2014.
Two weeks before the release of the county executive’s spending plan, the County Budget Office on Tuesday issued revenue and expense projections for major areas of next year’s budget, including anticipated costs for Medicaid, public assistance and pension obligations, as well as employee and retiree health insurance.
Based on those numbers, the Budget Office is projecting that the county’s current tax rate of $5.03 per $1,000 of assessed value will remain the same in 2014. Budget officials did not release a projected tax levy because adjustments are still being made to the 2014 budget, they said.
Anticipated increases in local property assessments are helping to keep taxes stable.
“There is no property tax growth, but it’s not due to any policy or political actions by the county. It’s due to the actions of local assessors, most of which do recurring reassessments,” which affects the county, said Deputy Budget Director Timothy Callan.
While annual growth in local property tax assessments is typical, Callan said 2013 was only the fourth time since 1979 that county experienced no growth in revenue from the property tax levy.
The county is projected to raise $434.4 million in sales tax revenues, $300.3 million of which is expected to be shared with local municipalities and school districts. Callan said the Budget Office is projecting a 2.75 percent growth in sales tax revenues in 2014.
“We decided to err on the side of caution and are taking a lower sales tax growth estimate for next year,” he said.
The administration estimated an annual 3 percent growth in sales tax revenues for 2013. Callan said actual sales tax revenue growth through September was 2.71 percent. By year’s end, he said, the county is expected to come in at $2.5 million to $3.2 million under budget in sales tax receipts. County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw has been critical of the administration’s 2013 sales tax revenue projections, calling them too aggressive.
“We were only $2 million to $3 million off, so I’d say our estimates were pretty accurate,” Callan said Tuesday.
The Budget Office is projecting that the county will carry a $7.4 million appropriated fund balance, $2 million of which has already been dedicated to a capital project at the Botanical Gardens, where there are plans to redo some greenhouses.
Callan said the county’s Capital Project Committee – which comprises four legislators and the county comptroller – agreed to pay for the project with money from the appropriated fund balance to avoid having to borrow.
Callan said some county accounts will see a reduction in federal aid, including a $2 million reduction in aid to needy families and a $1.3 million decrease in federal aid for social services administration. He said the projected $28.4 million expense for that budget line is $2.5 million over this year’s budget and is actually $6.1 million more than what the state is expected to reimburse the county.
Callan said the county will close out $3.9 million in dormant capital projects.
“We’re closing the accounts, and if there is any debt service, we’re paying it off,” he said. Leftover funds will be used to cover the budget for next year, he said.