Sales tax collection in off in New Hanover County by nearly $2 million, potentially placing a revenue shortfall on a Board of Commissioners that is already facing a proposed tax increase for its budget for next year.
In a report to the commission on Monday, May 16, County Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wurtzbacher said that sales tax revenue has grown at a pace of 3 percent in the 2015-2016 budget cycle, short of the 7 percent projected. The report covering the first three quarters of the budget cycle also showed higher property tax revenues of about $500,000, commissioner Woody White noted.
“We’re still seeing the growth, still it’s less than what we’ve budgeted,” Wurtzbacher told the board. “So we could potentially see shortfalls in sales tax revenue this year.”
The sales tax data showed that the county collected $30.4 million of about $62.3 million budgeted for the year, about 49 percent of the projection, with Wutzbacher noting that sales tax data runs one quarter, or three months, behind the rest of the budget data. Meanwhile, property tax collections are 1.2 percent above projections, she said.
Wurtzbacher also reported that the county is making more revenue from environmental management services, specifically the landfill. Even though the county recently reduced the tipping fee for landfill disposal, the county’s $8.7 million in revenues is slightly higher than last year, she said.
“You can tell that the economy is improving by the amount of trash we collect,” commissioner Jonathan Barfield, Jr. said, noting the revenue dips that came during economic turbulence in prior years.
The data on sales tax revenues come as the county is considering its budget for next year, where staff proposed approximately $16 million in tax increases to meet the $317.7 million budget that includes spending on voter-approved initiatives. The board has until late June to pass a budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
The budget is already becoming an issue in the campaign for three positions on the commission in the November election, with both White and Barfield running to defend their seats. Another candidate, financial advisor Patricia Kusek, said in a press release issued Monday that the 5.5 cent property tax increase proposed by the county staff wasn’t needed, instead arguing that “many of the 39 positions the staff is recommending adding are not needed.”
“Instead of adding positions, let’s work harder and smarter with our existing people to get the job done,” Kusek said.
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