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Travis County revenue estimate beats expectations

Thursday, July 30, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On Tuesday, Travis County Commissioners received the latest revenue estimates from County Auditor Susan Spataro and her colleague Blain Keith. The latest projections include the certified tax rolls from the Travis Central Appraisal District, and show the county in a slightly better financial position than expected.

 

The county’s General Fund is projected at $449.86 million, an increase of $1.96 million from the last revenue estimate. As a result, the expected beginning balance for FY10 rose $2.1 million, to $57 million. Keith attributed this to an increase in forecast revenues and a decrease in expenditures, primarily from Transportation and Natural Resources. A memo from Spataro to commissioners says, “The forecasted FY 2009 expenditures for the Road & Bridge Fund have dropped, resulting in an increase of $1.16 million in the budgeted FY 2010 beginning balance.”

 

The revenue projections take into account a tax rate of 42.54 cents. This would be an increase from the current rate of 41.22 cents, and a three percent raise over the effective tax rate of 41.31 cents. If the county were to raise taxes to the rollback rate— eight percent above the effective tax rate— that would be 43.77 cents.

 

The FY10 preliminary revenue projection is about $1.8 million less than FY09.

 

Appraisal values also have an impact on revenues. The TCAD lists $101 billion on the total appraisal roll, with a taxable value of $97.6 billion. But the district has roughly $17 billion in value currently in appeals. The outcome of those appeals will be reflected in future budgets, however.

 

According to the TCAD, Travis County added $2.9 billion in new property, which would increase the county’s tax revenue by approximately $12.33 million. But Spataro said in a memo that “with uncertainties abounding, with the cost of overestimating revenue being so high, I have chosen to be prudent and leave tax revenues the same as in the second revenue estimate.”

 

The county is also guessing about how much of the tax roll will be affected by HB 3613, a state law that exempts unemployable or fully disabled veterans from paying taxes on their primary residence. Keith told In Fact Daily that the county is currently estimating “maybe $1.5 million of (lost) tax revenue. This is one of the things you only know after it happens.”

 

In her memo, Spataro called the latest revenue estimate, “prudent, but not overly conservative,” and cautioned that further hurdles remained. She worries that commercial bankruptcies could jeopardize the amount the county is able to collect on time. The county will get two more revenue projections before it settles on the final budget for the year.

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