The real estate market is red hot right now and property transfer fees are up 55%, or $1.1 million, and recorder fees jumped 56.4% year-to-date, or $348,104.
The commissioners asked the other county officials to hold spending to actual expenses incurred in 2019, for the 2022 tax budget, despite having $83.9 million in unencumbered cash in the general fund as of May. It represents a 48.2% increase compared to last year.
“When communities are in the enviable position of being financially solvent it does create challenges to be fiscally strict,” County Administrator Judi Boyko said. “The board of commissioners are committed to funding operations that enhance services to the county constituency in the most effective, efficient and economical way.”
Sheriff Richard Jones has the largest general fund budget by far and according to the commissioners’ directive should have submitted a $39 million general fund tax budget. Due to upcoming union contract negotiations and an effort to recoup cuts that were made last year, the sheriff’s budget request represents a 9.2% increase over this year or $43.7 million.
Chief Anthony Dwyer told the Journal-News they made the “painful” cuts the commissioners requested last year and next year, “we’re asking that the commissioners consider the contractual increases and what’s needed to operate our operation appropriately.”
Other offices have also submitted requests outside of the commissioners’ directive, like the Juvenile Court, which is asking for $517,460 more than was expended during 2019. Court Administrator Rob Clevenger noted in his submission they had “significant” clerk vacancies in 2019 and they are losing a grant for the Family Treatment Drug Court in October, so those expenses will move to the general fund.
The commissioners have said they understand there will need to be exceptions made to the guidelines. With gas prices skyrocketing, the volatile housing market, uncertain pandemic recovery and other outside influences they say it is hard to set a spending plan at this early juncture.
“I believe we’re at tipping point,” Commissioner T.C. Rogers said. “Not only with homes, it’s with gas prices going up, people are going to make different decisions about what they buy. So we just can’t give these answers now.”
By law the tax budget must be approved in the summer but the commissioners hold budget hearings with everyone in the fall and pass the final budget in December.