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County budget officials predict small property tax increase for 2013

Thursday, February 16, 2012 by Michael Kanin

Early budget estimates from the Travis County Planning and Budget Office predict minimal growth in taxable property for the 2013 fiscal year. The numbers also show a small decline in average FY2013 property value from the FY2012 figure of $272,931 to $271,632. However, after the homestead exemption is applied, county losses are projected to be only $9 for the average home.


At this early date, county officials suggest that any tax hike for Travis County residents should be “at or near” the effective tax rate – a 3 percent rise in property taxes. Should the county elect to raise taxes by that amount, the change for the average area homeowner would be roughly $30 more a year.


That news came as some initial estimates for the costs resulting from a market salary survey that the county is conducting also became public. Court action on that study would have an effect on the FY2013 budget.


It was all part of a presentation to court members that offered highlights of the proposed FY2013 county budget guidelines. When it was done, the court approved that document unanimously.


The guidelines include a note about the nearly-complete market salary survey that county officials are working on. With it, Travis hopes to get a better feel for how competitive county salaries are. Acting Planning and Budget Office Director Leroy Nellis suggested that an adjustment for 75 percent of the county’s employees – excluding officials with its Auditor’s office, public safety officials, and the county purchasing office – could be coming. Should the court vote to implement the full results of the study, it could cost them as much as $11 million annually.


“The initial cost estimates of the market survey indicate the reserve is not sufficient to fully implement the study on an annualized basis,” Nellis wrote court members. He continued that any attempt to lesson the impact in FY2012 would only come back to bite the county in FY2013. “Implementing any recommendations midyear of FY 12 would reduce the cost in the current fiscal year, but would automatically create an FY 13 ‘ratchet’ for the ongoing cost that is above the amount reserved.”


The issue will be more fully explored when court members have it on their agenda in early March. Commissioner Ron Davis questioned Nellis about the practicality of offering a one-time salary bump to county employees who will not receive salary adjustments thanks to the survey.


According to Nellis, there would be legal concerns with such a proposal. “There’s some work to do if, in fact, the court would like to pursue any of those ideas,” he said.


Nellis said that the FY2013 budget represents an attempt to keep things relatively simple as the county makes a change in its financial system. “(We) have concentrated on very little change from FY12 in light of the fact that we will be going simultaneously with the FY13 budget cycle and the conversion to the (new) financial system,” he said.

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