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Monday, May 2, 2016

Sales tax fall hurts county

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bedford County's current-year property tax collections are running ahead of where they were a year ago, but the overage is cancelled out by lagging performance in sales tax and in prior-year property tax collections.

That was the message at Tuesday night's meeting of Bedford County Financial Management Committee, where county finance director Robert Daniel presented his monthly analysis.

Up and down

Current-year property tax collections totalled $7,020,070 at the end of December 2012, an increase of $101,515 over the previous year.

But prior-year taxes were $165,465 less than they were at the same point in the previous fiscal year. And the part of sales tax which is paid to the county lagged $19,822 behind the previous year's collections. Prior year court collections and mineral severance tax also lagged behind.

Just as the county's share of sales tax collections is down, so is the school system's share.

Ed Gray, who is serving as interim school superintendent along with Mike Bone, told the committee that the school system's sales tax revenue dropped by $32,000 in a single month.

"That's not a good sign," he said.

No panic

There was no sense of panic on the committee, however, and no immediate discussion of the consequences if revenue continues to lag as the county heads into the second half of the fiscal year.

But Gray tried to look at the bright side, saying that he'd just seen a report that 952 new jobs were created last year, most by existing industries.

Sales tax revenue takes about two months to come in to the county, so the December collections represent retail sales in October. If November and December Christmas sales were strong -- or weak -- that will be reflected in sales tax collections over the coming two months.

The finance committee heard that the county will be asked to contribute $50,000 towards a street-widening project to benefit one of those industries, Newell Rubbermaid. The City of Shelbyville has already contributed $111,000, said County Mayor Eugene Ray. Ray said that since some of the project has to do with utility relocation costs, the county might ask Duck River Electric Membership Corp. and Bedford County Utility District to help.

Litigation revenue

In other discussion Tuesday night, Lori Schuler of the county finance office reported on questions discussed at previous meetings about the county's litigation tax revenue.

Schuler said that some litigation tax was, in fact, being incorrectly credited and is now going into the proper accounts. But Schuler said the number of cases introduced into the court system could not be used to compute expected litigation tax revenue.

For example, Schuler said, an accused person might be charged with five counts of a given offense. That would be listed as five different cases in the court clerk's report, but it would result in only one payment of the litigation tax. And other cases are filed but then dismissed, meaning they don't result in any litigation tax either.

Committee member J.D. "Bo" Wilson, who was not present Tuesday night, and other commissioners have expressed interest in the litigation tax issue because some of the litigation tax goes into a courthouse security fund, and courthouse overcrowding and security have become an increasing concern in recent months.

Detention center

Bedford County Juvenile Detention Center, which last month appeared to be running below its break-even point, is now projected to be within the targets set by the commission when it kept the center open two years ago.

The center takes Bedford County juveniles, which are the county's responsibility, but also brings in some income by taking juveniles from other counties.

As long as the center loses less than $250,000 per year, say officials, the county is better off keeping it open than it would be if it closed the center and had to pay to send its own juveniles elsewhere. If the center loses more than $250,000 per year, the county would benefit financially by closing it.

Last month, the revenue and expense figures received at that point made it look like the center would lose $279,000 for the year. But this month, that projection is $233,574, within the acceptable amount.

The problem seems to be that payments from the state are coming in quarterly instead of monthly, and that threw off the projections last month.

New chairman

The committee, which has rotated the position of chairman for several years, elected Ray as chairman, succeeding Janice Brothers, who has held the position for the past year. Stanley Smotherman was elected vice-chair.