The Calhoun County Commission planned to receive $5.7 million in the current fiscal year, but so far has collected only $5.5 million.
With just two months more to go in the fiscal year, it won’t collect much more, said Faye Robertson, assistant Calhoun County Administrator. That marks a 5 percent decline in property tax revenue, also known as ad valorem revenue, which in a good market usually increases by about two percent a year.
“For the first time since I’ve been here we did not make our ad valorem tax projections, and the picture does not look good for next year,” said Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner, who has been on the job for 39 years.
The county relies heavily on the tax to provide services to area residents such as road repair, animal control and a landfill.
That’s a 5 percent decline and county officials are not counting on as much money from the usually dependable revenue in the next fiscal year either. Instead of calculating for growth, which is customary, the county is planning to receive no more ad valorem taxes than it did this year.
The cause for the decline can’t be linked to any one issue, said Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper.
Next year her office is counting on$42.7 million in revenue from property taxes. The county is still expecting less money from the fund, which typically yields blossoming returns.
Brenda Acray, a county appraiser, said that while the shrinking revenue stream can be attributed to a greater number of people seeking exemptions, protesting their home values, and changes in property tax filing, but more than anything she said the culprit is the decaying construction industry.
“We have very few new homes and very few new businesses being added this year,” Acray said.
Acray said the housing market hasn’t had a direct effect on home values for tax purposes and that, on the whole, property values in Calhoun County have remained flat. They’ve had a less direct effect, however, because when individuals’ residential market values go down because of the market, they begin appealing to the revenue office to reduce their property value. When those requests are granted, the county collects less tax on the property and the collective effect can drive the revenue stream down.
When those requests aren’t granted, the property owner can appeal to an equalization board, which is set up to independently evaluate property owners’ requests. This year 88 such cases will come before the board, which meets next month.
Many of those cases, Roper said, are property owners who operate hotels and apartments and argue their property values have declined because fewer renters are around to pay for rooms and apartments. That means that while the county is expecting to receive $4.7 million for taxes this year, it stands to collect even less.
And neither Roper nor the county will know what their bottom lines will be until that process is complete.
“We don’t know if it’s going to be up, or down,” Roper said.
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.