CHESTERTOWN — Kent County’s budget for Fiscal Year 2017 is close to being in final shape after a workshop session by the Kent County Commissioners Tuesday, May 31.
Pat Merritt, the county’s chief finance officer, gave the commissioners a preview of the presentation she will give at a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 7.
The county plans no increase in the property tax rate of $1.022 per $100 assessed value. That figure remains lower than the constant yield rate of $1.0227, Merritt said.
Revenues from property and income taxes are projected to be essentially flat, and the county’s income tax rate will remain at 2.25 percent, Merritt said. There will be no new fees, and the income level to qualify for the homeowners’ tax credit has been extended from $25,000 to $30,000.
According to a draft budget updated June 1, revenue is projected at $46 million, an increase of just under $400,000 over FY 2016. Typically, 66 percent of the county’s revenue comes in the form of property taxes; income taxes make up another 27 percent. Recordation and property transfer fees make up an additional 4 percent, and all other sources make up the remainder.
Merrit projected FY 2017 expenditures at about $51 million, exceeding revenues by nearly $5 million, Merritt said. That is an increase of about $1.8 million over FY 2016.
The largest single category of expenditure is the public schools, at 47 percent, followed by public safety at 19 percent and general government at 17 percent. Those figures include reductions of $326,000 in general government, $693,000 in public works and $370,000 in public education.
Non-recurring expenditures account for about $5.3 million of the projected budget. This category includes $4.8 million for capital projects such as the county’s broadband upgrade. The county will draw on its fund balance to cover the nearly $5 million of the non-recurring expenses.
Included in the budget are salary increases of 3 percent for all county employees. That amounts to an increase of about $231,000 in salaries and benefits, Merritt said. Other increases in payroll include adding lifeguards at Betterton Beach and fully funding the Family Service Center.
The FY 2017 fund balance is projected at about $3.7 million, 7.3 percent of the budget. That is slightly below the target of 7.5 percent. Merritt said the county built up its fund balance by taking on no new debt since 2011 and cutting expenditures between 2011 and 2015. The county also took the opportunity to pay down its debt by about $9 million over the last four years.
Revenues exceeded expenditures between 2011 and 2014, and only in 2015 did the county begin to reduce the fund balance, which was at $10,193,000 at the end of FY 2014.
In a May 24 budget work session, Merritt said she would put the draft budget on the county website so residents can review it before the June 7 public hearing takes place.