Rising property values contribute extra $2.3M to Washtenaw County coffers
Greater than anticipated property value increases in 2013 for Washtenaw County resulted in $2.3 million in additional revenue from property taxes for the county’s general fund.
In the 2011-12 budget cycle, the county had planned to receive $60.9 million in tax dollars in 2013.
In the 2013 equalization report approved Wednesday night by the Board of Commissioners, estimated tax revenue for the county in 2013 is $63.2 million -- meaning Washtenaw County will be bringing in $2.3 million in tax revenue that commissioners didn’t think they would be getting when they set their original budget.
Andrew Kuhn | For AnnArbor.com
Wednesday night commissioners were extremely happy to hear the $2.3 million figure from Equalization Department Director Raman Patel as they move forward in their budgeting.
It's the third piece of news the commissioners have been pleased about recently, as theend of the year budget report for 2012 at their last meeting revealed an unexpected surplus to contribute to the county's fund balance.
The county was also able to finalize 10-year contracts with five of its unions in March after expedited negotiations hastened by the looming implementation of Michigan's new right-to-work law.
Chairman Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, said the additional $2.3 million in the county's fund balance could help offset some unknown factors looming from state and federal decisions.
“It’s good to hear that we’re going to be taking in more money than we budgeted for. We were presented a few months ago with news that the federal government would reduce their funding with sequestration, and some state budget cuts could come as well,” Rabhi said. “We could help sustain some of those ongoing community assets with some of this money I feel like we could use this money to balance the budget without having to make extensive cuts.”
The county is pursuing the creation of a four-year budget that would extend from 2014 to 2017. The county has been on a two-year budget cycle since 1994.
The Board of Commissioners passed the initial measure directing staff to pursue a four-year-budget plan in a 7-1 vote after much debate Wednesday, with Commissioner Rolland Sizemore Jr., D-Ypsilanti Township, absent.
Many commissioners expressed reservations about passing a four-year budget when they serve two-year terms.
Commissioner Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti, opposed the measure. Critical of the timeline set by commissioners in leadership roles to establish budget priorities for the year, Peterson said he felt there were a lot of private discussions taking place.
“We haven’t voted on our priorities,” Peterson said. “If we’re going to do any deals I’m going to do it in public. I don’t do closed doors.”
Though Commissioner Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, was in favor of pursuing a four-year budget cycle, he echoed Peterson’s comments that there needed to be more discussion about the budget during board meetings.
“We had prompted a more engaged conversation last time by this time in the last budget process,” Smith said. “It feels like we’re getting late, in all honesty.”
Chairman Rabhi said after the meeting the reason the board hasn't pursued more budget discussions this term was because of the expedited union contract negotiations.
Rabhi said a four-year budget would be a plan and not a binding agreement, as the board must pass a budget annually to operate -- giving future boards flexibility to change.
The Board of Commissioners in the next term could choose to do away with the four-year budget completely, Rabhi said, and direct the administrator to begin the budget development process again. Rather than tie the hands of future boards, Rabhi said creating a four-year budget now would allow the Board of Commissioners in the next term to pursue more initiatives for the community.
The productivity of departments in the county would increase with the passage of a four-year budget, Patel said.
The next Board of Commissioners budget retreat will be 6 p.m. May 16 at the Washtenaw County Library Learning Resource Center at 4135 Washtenaw Ave. in Ann Arbor Charter Township.