Tax revenues up, fees down as Summit County approaches mid 2014
Summit County’s sales and mass transit taxes are trending well above 2014 budget projections, but so far revenues from fees are down, according to a midyear financial report.
Summit County finance director Marty Ferris delivered the report Tuesday, Aug. 5, during a Board of County Commissioners workshop at the Old Courthouse in Breckenridge. The data delivered represents revenues collected and funds spent through May of this year.
The good news, Ferris said, is sales tax is up about $260,000, or 12 percent, through the first five months of 2014. Revenues thus far are well above the 2 percent increase Ferris budgeted for at the beginning of the year and, if trends continue, could exceed projections by about $500,000.
The mass transit tax, which is responsible for a portion of the Summit Stage bus system’s funding — along with advertising revenue and federal and state grants — also is exceeding budgeted projections to the tune of $410,000, or 11.7 percent. If those trends continue, the county’s transit fund could benefit from a roughly $800,000 boost by year’s end.
The news couldn’t come at a better time for the Summit County Transit Board, which blew through its more than $3 million reserve to maintain services in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn. Last year, thanks to a late summer surge in sales tax revenue that offset unforeseen increases in fuel and maintenance costs, the transit fund ended 2013 about $100,000 in the black, but it still has no operating reserves.
At budget time, officials set aside several hundred thousand dollars in the county general fund to bail out the transit fund, in the event costs continued to soar and 2014 sales tax revenues failed to meet projections. With a $410,000 surplus already in the bank and a year-end total surplus of $800,000 on the horizon, Ferris said the loan transfer likely won’t be necessary.
Summit County assistant manager Thad Noll said the transit fund also stands to benefit from its bus advertising program. Although those funds have not come in yet, when the program was approved last year officials estimated it could pump $300,000 to $400,000 in additional annual revenue into the transit fund’s coffers.
Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson asked Noll if the extra funds meant expanded services for the Summit Stage in 2015.
“We had a great transit board meeting last week and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the transit board say, ‘No, we’re not ready to expand services,’” Noll said. “I think we’re all on the same page considering we don’t have a reserve and the consensus for now is to keep trucking along the way we’ve been trucking.”
Davidson then asked Noll how much money would be needed to replenish the transit fund’s reserves to an appropriate level. Noll said about $2 million.
The county won’t reach that $2 million mark this year, Noll continued, saying it would take several years of continued increases in sales tax revenue, as well as increased federal assistance for transit, to build up a healthy reserve.
The update wasn’t all roses, however. Although sales taxes are the largest source of revenue, annually contributing about 14 percent to the general fund, fees for service — the county’s second largest revenue source — are trending a little behind 2014 budget projections.
Notably, revenues from fees at the clerk and recorder’s office are down almost $130,000 compared with May of last year. Revenues from building permits, planning and engineering fees, as well as treasurer’s office fees, also are down compared with last year, Ferris said.
“It’s going to take some investigating to figure out what’s happening with the clerk and recorder’s office, but the reduced fees at the treasurer’s office are explainable because the county’s assessed value went down,” Ferris said. “Fees at the treasurer’s office are doing better than budgeted, but we get a bulk of those revenues in early, so we’ll have to see what happens during the second half of the year.”
The one exception to the downward trend is taking place at the landfill, where fees for solid waste are up about 11 percent. However, those revenues are offset by a $60,000 increase in expenses.
Overall Ferris said the budget and county finances are in good shape. Even though revenues are down at the clerk’s office, as an example, Ferris thinks it will still meet its revenue goal of $1.1 million thanks to conservative budgeting.
It also helps that Summit’s payment in lieu of taxes benefit came in $100,000 over budget and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is covering about $180,000 for a new bridge and improvements to Montezuma Road following the washout in June, Ferris said.
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