Beacon Journal staff writer
Despite a touchy economy and low expectations, the Summit County government bested its financial projections last year, county leaders said.
Tax revenue grew by $4 million to $104.5 million, buoyed by stronger-than-expected sales tax and property transfer taxes.
The year-end results are a positive indicator that the local economy is improving, said county Finance and Budget Director Brian Nelsen.
Sales tax collections climbed $1.3 million to $34.3 million, showing that local consumers are starting to open their wallets again. And property transfer taxes grew by $446,831 to $4.8 million, signaling that the real estate market may be coming out of its slump.
However, the totals are still well below 2008 amounts. Sales tax and property transfer taxes were $36 million and $5.9 million, respectively, that year.
The tax revenue and a major drop in expenses last year meant the county didn't dip into reserve funds to balance its general fund budget. In fact, the county finished the year with $32.6 million in carryover cash.
The county needs healthy reserve funds, Nelsen said, to bolster its solid bond rating from credit rating agencies. The rating affects how much the county pays in interest on capital projects.
The county also is worried about potential cuts coming from the state, which is dealing with a possible $8 billion hole in the next two-year budget, and having enough money to absorb any cutbacks, said Jason Dodson, chief of staff for County Executive Russ Pry.
Last year, county expenses dropped significantly, falling from $116.4 million in 2009 to $103.3 million. The biggest decline was seen in salaries, which fell by more than $8 million thanks to earlier buyouts and layoffs.