COUNTY MOSTLY CLIMBED OUT OF RECESSION IN 2015, BOCK TELLS BOARD

Published Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The county does that already, County Administrator Verdenia Baker told Bock.

“It’s there. The priorities are there,” Baker insisted, prompting Bock to respond, “Of course there are priorities. I respect that.”

Baker said later she wasn’t offended by Bock’s advice, saying she always is open to suggestions.

The exchange was part of Bock’s “Comprehensive Annual Financial Report” to commissioners for the budget year that ended Sept. 30, 2015. She led off by saying that in 2015 the county mostly completed its climb from the recent recession and was transitioning “from recovery to prosperity.”

Bock suggested the board meet to set priorities before it starts its budget approval process in the summer (it votes in late September).

“As the legislative body of the county, nothing is more important to the public than how you decide to spend their hard-earned dollars,” Bock said. She said that, even as the county is enjoying increased income, “in an fluctuating economy, this budget process ensures you will continue to meet the demands of the citizens.”

The county is now developing a proposal for a 1 cent sales surtax to pay for a backlog of repairs to roads, bridges and buildings that county officials say were neglected during the recession.

Commissioner Priscilla Taylor asked if improving conditions also meant Bock herself could restore the drastic cuts in services and hours she imposed on her offices last summer. No, Bock said. Money for those is parceled out from the state and is separate from her Comptroller budget, and she’s barred by law from mingling the two. Bock has said the cuts were made necessary by unfair distribution of state money to clerks. And, she said Tuesday, “with no relief in sight.”

But she also counseled against, as nice as it would be, taking up the county on an offer to move some money from the general county pot. That, she said, “takes the state off the hook and unfairly burdens the county.”

Highlights of Bock’s report on the 2014-2015 budget year:

  • Overall county revenues were up $103 million, a 7 percent increase from 2013-2014, which was the biggest one-year increase in a decade. The largest increase was in property taxes, which accounted for half of the county’s revenues.

  • The local housing market, which began rebounding in 2012, had a 13.5 percent jump from 2014 to 2015. Median sales prices rose by 11 percent to $305,000 for single-family houses and by more than 10 percent for condominiums and town homes.

  • The county collected $43 million in tourist development taxes in 2015.
  • The county saved $17 million by restructuring recent bond issues, and overall debt incurred by the county was equal to $626 per person.

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