County revenues show slow but steady growth

Staff Writer

If the previous three years hold true, Clay County's property tax revenues could top $6 million for the first time.

Since the end of the 2014-2015 budget year, revenues have exceeded projections by 3 percent or more every year. The last two years, they've almost been 4 percent higher than projections.

For the current budget year that ends Sept, 30, 2018, supervisors budgeted $5,828,615 in property tax revenues. If actual collections exceed projections by 3 percent, that would mean Tax Collector Paige Lamkin and her staff would collect more than $6,003,000 by the time the fiscal year ends.

That's more than 50 percent of the county's $11 million operating budget.

Through Feb 28, Lamkin's office had taken in $4,319,192.03, or 74.1 percent of estimates. That's about on par with the percentage collected at this time of year in previous cycles, she said.

Money will continue to trickle in during the next four months with another big bump coming in August as people pay up to avoid having their property sold at the delinquent tax sale and the county collects revenues from property sold at that sale.

Lamkin plans to ask county supervisors later this month to allow the county to join a growing number of counties across the state that are conducting tax sales on line. That process is increasing revenues as bidders from other parts of the country are able to get in on the auctions, sometimes driving up prices.

Increased revenues are good news for several reasons. Overall, they mean county property values are growing. That's a sign of a healthy local economy. Furthermore, it means the county is attracting new residents and new investment -- money being used to expand homes and businesses.

Second, it gives supervisors a chance to build the county's "rainy-day" fund and some cushion when putting together a spending plan for 2019. That's especially true as the county starts work on a new Justice Center.
"I think we do have a little bit of growth, not a lot, but a steady amount," Lamkin said of the annual increases.

Being able to set aside extra revenues away is helping the county rebuild its reserves, Chancery Court Clerk Amy Berry said.

"The supervisors have tried to build their cash balance back up. It had gotten pretty low at one point. It's just good management to have it, but we also want to have some flexibility, some resources if an industrial prospect comes in and we need to be able to help with site or infrastructure improvements," Berry explained.

Between Sept. 30, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2017, the county increased its general fund cash balance almost 40 percent. It also has funds set aside in a TVA special fund for emergencies or in case revenues reverse the recent trends.