The Warren County Commissioners are calling for 3/4 of a mill tax increase in the 2013 budget, the first millage increase in nearly 10 years.
The total property tax millage rate for the county has been 18.75 mills for the past nine years and is set to increase to 19.50 next year. The 3/4 of a mill increase is expected to raise $360,000, Fiscal Director Toby Rohlin said.
The county estimates there will be $17 million in revenues for next year and $16,930,000 in expenditures.
The 2013 county budget documents will be available in the commissioners office in the Warren County Courthouse on Friday and the budget is expected to be finalized during the commissioners' last meeting of the year on Dec. 26.
Wages and benefits were the largest two line items on the 2013 budget, commissioner John Bortz said, which coupled with incremental costs of infrastructure over a nine-year period, led to the millage increase.
Operational costs include increases in employee salaries and capital projects in the county such as roof repairs, and purchases of vehicles and software. Typically the commissioners approve nearly half of the amount of capital projects, Bortz said.
"This was finally the year where we said just how much further do you want to kick the can down the road and we had to make the decision that we did," he said.
Commissioner Chairman Stephen Vanco said increases in employee salaries are scheduled for this year and the next.
Employees are scheduled to receive a two percent increase in salary, Bortz said.
"At some point after basically 10 years on a flat income you can't do the same business now as you could do 10 years ago with that amount of money," he said. "Three quarters of a mill we feel is very modest."
"I think we are running a very lean machine at the moment and as much as we regret having to raise the millage rate, really we're up against the wall; we had no choice," Commissioner John Eggleston said. "We continue to suffer from the federal government and the state government lowering their share of the partnerships that we share in both human services and justice and every way we do this, they don't remove the mandates; they just take the funding away and we're left with either defying them and not providing the service they insist we provide or we have to pass the cost on to our local property owners. And as regrettable as that is we don't see that we have any other way out of this dilemma."
Bortz said over the last ten years the commissioners have drawn down cash reserves and the millage increase was necessary for a safe county operation.
"This is the first tax increase that I have voted for, that Commissioner Eggleston has voted for, and it is not something that is done lightly. I am extremely pleased that the effort we put forth over the past few years has yielded some really good fiscal results. Particularly the savings we found in the bond through refinancing has helped us avoid a deeper burden to the tax payers. I feel we have done everything we can to cushion this blow and I'm very pleased about that," he said.
"Mr Rohlin's input is invaluable and I would be remiss if I didn't commend him publicly for the effort he makes and the attention he brings to it," Eggleston said. "In terms of keeping us informed of what we can and cannot do, what's possible and what isn't possible. His advice is invaluable."
The commissioners also unanimously approved a tax anticipation note in the amount of $3.5 million from PNC Bank with a 1.3 percent variable interest rate.
The tax anticipation note is a loan the county takes out to provide funds until tax payments are received.
The county took out a $3.5 million loan on the first of the year and is due on the last day in December.
The 2013 tax anticipation note will act as a line of credit instead of a lump sum and the county will draw down portions as needed. The county will not pay interest on the portions that haven't been drawn down.
"Hopefully that will work to our advantage," Rohlin said.