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Tax bill should decrease

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Official says residents will pay less taxes on property

By Chris Sardelli

County Council unanimously passed the county’s 2009-10 budget Monday night.

The budget, which begins July 1, was set at slightly more than $31.3 million. Considered a “continuation budget,” the new budget did not include pay raises, tax hikes, layoffs or additional programs from the current budget, though it did add four new positions.

The budget passed 6-0. Council Vice-chairman Rudy Carter was absent.

The budget was unbalanced by about $350,000 when council gave it first and second approval, but County Administrator Steve Willis said the discrepancy was fixed prior to Monday’s meeting.

Council had delayed final reading of the budget, waiting to see if the state Legislature would change state property tax laws, but it did not.

Once County Assessor Norman Anderson knew the state tax laws were set, he looked at the county’s growth numbers and was able to balance the budget. He found the balance between the county’s loss in manufacturing and the county’s growth numbers.

The discrepancy between the budget and revenue was due to increases in insurance costs, as well as funding that must now be provided for post-employment benefits.

The latter requirement is due to a provision called GASB 45, an accounting requirement from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. As a result, at least $255,000 had to be allocated in the upcoming budget for trust funds for future retirees. The costs associated with this are based on salaries of employees, and could change each year.

Outgoing Council Chairman Fred Thomas did not participate in the discussion or vote on the portion of the budget that pertained to magistrate funding. He recused himself from the discussion because he is stepping down from council to assume a new magistrate’s position.

Additional  positions

There were several significant changes in the new budget, including the addition of four new positions. This includes a full-time accountant with an annual salary of $32,201, a part-time expungement clerk in the magistrate’s court with an annual salary of $10,000 and a half-year full-time deputy county administrator, who will begin work in January and be paid $80,000 annually.

A full-time welcome center specialist, previously a function of See Lancaster, has also been added. It will be partially funded by accommodation taxes.

Willis said the accountant, deputy administrator and expungement clerk were all needed because of increasing workloads in those departments. The clerk was also required because of a state law that said all expungements must be completed within 30 days. This means the clerk will be responsible for removing all references to charges in official court records after someone is found not guilty by a magistrate.  

There are no pay raises for county employees, and the county continues to hold vacant positions in the following departments: building and zoning, planning and public works.

Residents will see tax savings

The new budget calls for no increase in the millage, or tax rate.

Because both county and school debt service tax rates are decreasing slightly, county residents should see a decrease in their net tax bills, said County Auditor Cheryl Morgan.

The owner of a $100,000 home can expect to see a $18.90 decrease in taxes in the coming year, she said.

Contact reporter  Chris Sardelli  at csardelli@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 416-8416