That was the good news from Douglas County Commission Chairman Tom Worthan last week as he discussed the proposed budget prior to last night’s scheduled public hearing on the budget.
Calling it a “work in progress,” Worthan said that changes in the budget are always possible following the public hearing.
The commission will conduct its final vote on the budget at its meeting Tuesday.
Although he would not estimate what the 2014 budget would be, Worthan did say it would be smaller than the 2013 budget but not by much.
The county’s 2013 budget was $90 million, which the commission balanced with a 23 percent property tax increase.
Worthan said there are some decisions the commission needs to make with regard to the county’s employee health care plan.
However, the county has paid off its only long-term debt, for construction of the Blake Gammill Memorial Building, and is not facing that issue with regard to the 2014 budget.
“Not facing any long-term indebtedness for 2014 is something many counties in our state cannot truthfully say, so we are ahead of the game in that respect,” Worthan said.
The county’s revenue stream for the 2014 budget, the chairman said, remains about the same as it was this year.
“We still had a loss in our tax digest of about 1.5 percent but that percentage is steadily shrinking and is certainly better than what we have seen in the last four or five years,” Worthan said.
He said the county tax digest was down 15 percent in 2008 but, since then, the tax digest loss percentage has shown a steady reduction and, last year, was 3.5 to 4 percent.
“We have definitely seen some improvement in our tax digest,” Worthan said.
The county’s local option sales tax percentage, however, has gone down, the chairman said.
“Because of the growth of our cities with the population in these incorporated cities having gone up, their percentage of the LOST revenue has increased, meaning the county’s percentage has been reduced,” Worthan said.
He said he is also concerned that the vehicle title tax, which has been a revenue generator for county coffers, could take another hit in the 2014 general assembly.
According to Worthan, the state legislature has already reduced the vehicle title tax from 6.5 to 4.5 percent.
“I am not sure this is going to happen in the 2014 general assembly session but our county should not overestimate what we are going to receive from the vehicle title tax,” he said.
All county departments have received a directive from County Administrator Eric Linton to institute a 3 percent across the board cut from each department’s 2014 budget.
“We have asked each of our departments to do more with less and they have responded well,” Worthan said.
“I am proud of our employees,” he said.