Cumulative capital development tax rate change delayed

The tax rate for the county’s cumulative capital development fund will not increase next year after a legal notice was not advertised in time.

The Brown County Commissioners had been working to reestablish the cumulative capital development fund rate as a way to bring in more income to the county as officials prepare for potential drops in tax revenue due to COVID-19.

The reestablishment would have resulted in an increase of less than $2 to property tax bills for the average property owner starting next year.

On April 7, the commissioners had a public hearing via Zoom about reestablishing the cumulative capital development fund to the maximum rate of 0.0333 on each $100 of assessed value for 2022. The ordinance reestablishing the cumulative capital development fund was then approved on first reading unanimously.

Moving to the max would put about $56,000 more into the cumulative capital development fund, which pays for mostly county buildings and grounds upkeep, maintenance and IT services.

A second reading to reestablish the cumulative capital fund rate was unanimously approved at the April 21 meeting.

“I think we’re doing everything we can possible to be prepared for any contingency with COVID and revenues,” commissioner Diana Biddle said.

“I think everything we’re doing right now is based on giving council and commissioners some budgetary options, because we have absolutely no idea what our revenue shortfalls will be next year. … We’re going to do anything that we can possible to be responsible to the public and to the taxpayers, but yet we also have to be responsible to the business of the county in order to provide services.”

A notice was sent to the Brown County Democrat to run in the April 28 issue, which would have started a 30-day remonstrance period. But due to an oversight, that advertisement did not run in that issue.

The commissioners were following a timeline from the Department of Government Finance, and the notice had to run in the April 28 issue in order to complete the reestablishment process and have new rates next year.

Approving the reestablishment of the tax did mean the new rate would automatically take effect. The tax rate for that fund is determined by the county council and would have had to have been done this summer during the budget process for 2022.

At the May 5 meeting, Biddle said that the commissioners had discovered on Friday, April 30 that the notice was overlooked and did not run in the newspaper. Biddle said that on May 4, the DLGF told the commissioners the notice could have also been posted on the door of the County Office Building, but that alternative was not shared in time.

Auditor Julia Reeves was going to talk to officials at the state level to see if it was possible for the county to submit the reestablishment ordinances for 2023 or if the process would have to be started again.

Biddle said she asked lawyers with Barnes and Thornburg, who represent the county, to reach out to the DLGF to see if the county had any other options for 2022.

“I know that there is case law that if something is not published and it’s not really our fault then you can continue, go ahead, but there are certain parameters for that,” Biddle said.

“We will figure it out, regroup and start again with whatever we need to do.”

The county’s financial adviser, Baker Tilly, had suggested putting the cumulative capital development fund rate back to the maximum last August when the firm did an updated five-year financial plan for the county. Other recommendations focused on making cuts to budgets which Baker Tilly projected may be struggling due to possible drops in property and income tax revenue.