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County budget building deficit

Curfew on youth also floated

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POSTED: August 22, 2011 3:28 p.m.

The Liberty County general fund came in $216,094 over its anticipated budget for the 2011 fiscal year, according to reports presented during the Thursday Board of Commissioners meeting.
The board also heard updates about its mobile home tax enforcement program and received a request to consider curfew restrictions for minors.
“I wish I had better news for you,” county finance officer Kim McGlothlin said as she presented the report. “I know I was up here last month and suggested that we might have been able to contribute $100,000 or $200,000 to the fund balance, but July was not that good by the time we captured all of June expenses and made all of our adjustments.”
The county fell short about $1.6 million in revenues, she said. While the county was able to reduce its anticipated expenditures by about $1.38 million, the shortfall in revenues outweighed the savings.
“I think all of the departments did a wonderful job in holding the line and saving money,” she said. Only two departments spent more than their budgeted amount.
The Liberty County Clerk of Courts has a year-end budget overage of $11,746, the report said. Salaries, communications and office supplies were the greatest contributors to the overage.
The Liberty County Fire Protection department also was over budget by $6,860 due to vehicle maintenance expenses for county fire trucks that were not anticipated in the budget, McGlothlin said.
“We only utilized 95 percent of the budget expenditures,” she explained. “But we only achieved 94 percent of the budgeted revenues.”
The county fell short on both sales tax and property taxes, even though the county only budgeted to receive about 94 percent of assessed taxes, she told the board.
At the end of June, there was $891,000 in uncollected county property taxes for the 2010 tax year alone. In the past four tax years, there was $1.6 million in uncollected county taxes. County tax figures do not include amounts due to the board of education, the Liberty County Development Authority, the Hospital Authority of Liberty County, municipalities or any other taxing entity, she added.
“I think that just speaks volumes of the state of the economy right now,” she said. As of Thursday, the county has $711,000 in outstanding county property taxes and about $1.3 million in uncollected county taxes from 2007 — evidence that tax funds are still rolling in.
Funds from previous years’ taxes are added to the county general fund, where there are line items for the most recent tax year as well as previous ones, McGlothlin said after the meeting.
Though the news is not good for homeowners, McGlothlin said it’s too soon to say whether the revenue shortage will affect millage rates for the 2011 tax year.
In other property tax news, county code enforcement officer Tony Mullis updated the board about citations issued to mobile home owners for failure to display a mobile home decal, a program aimed at boosting tax revenue.
Because they are usually not homestead properties, mobile home owners cannot be penalized for failure to pay taxes the same way a traditional homeowner would be, he said. But owners of manufactured homes are required to pay property taxes at the same rate as other homeowners, and they receive a mobile home decal as proof of payment.
Since January, Mullis issued 170 $25 citations for failure to display a decal to those who do not have a current decal displayed. Sometimes, the owners paid the taxes and simply forgot to affix the decals, but often times, the decals are not current because the taxes have not been paid, he said.
“Since we started doing it, we’ve collected taxes from about 80 percent of those 170 citations, which roughly came out to about $83,000 in back mobile home taxes,” he said. “That’s a pretty good success rate.”
Once homeowners are issued a citation, they can resolve the matter either by paying the taxes and fines through the magistrate court or requesting a court hearing, he said.
Those with outstanding taxes who have not yet been written citations may still make payments or arrange a payment plan through the tax commissioner’s office, but once Mullis writes a citation, the matter must be handled through the courts.
The county is allowed to collect back taxes from 2004 through the present, so those who have not paid their taxes in years could face hefty fines, he added. After $16 in state surcharges for the citation, the minimum payment for each year is $41, and the maximum fine is $354.
“It could get costly if you don’t do like you should,” Mullis said. “The judge has been very lenient so far, giving minimum fines, but it could cost you a lot of money.”

 

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