Fresno County expects $21.7 million in extra revenue

The Fresno BeeJanuary 28, 2014 

Next year's Fresno County budget will get an unexpected boost from revenue now coming in, county supervisors learned Tuesday.

County officials are projecting about $21.7 million more, including $17 million in property tax revenues and payments for delinquent property taxes, said Vicki Crow, Fresno County auditor-tax collector.

She said another $1.8 million comes from higher sales-tax revenues, plus $3.7 million in vehicle-license fees.

Supervisors were encouraged by the report but warned that the county has fallen behind on payments for pension obligations and face other costs.

Overall, Crow said, the county should conservatively expect to bank about $16 million more than officials had initially forecast for the budget year.

The largest chunk of unanticipated money -- about $8.5 million -- is coming from delinquent property taxes and interest, Crow said.

Less than half that was expected, meaning more people paid delinquent property taxes with interest, but Crow said high levels of revenue from that fund likely won't continue.

Home owners have five years to pay property taxes before losing their homes, and the delinquency rate was 4.5% in 2008 compared with 1.6% today, she said.

"We are at the height of that revenue stream," Crow said.

Another $3.7 million in vehicle license fees is dedicated to health and social services, and the county also owes $6 million for a lawsuit over excessive property tax fees charged to cities. And then there's the county's large IOU for pension obligation payments.

"We have a $30 million bill to pay starting with our next budget," Supervisor Judy Case McNairy said, referring to county pension obligations. "Even though it looks like there is a great increase (in revenues), there is a great increase in our cost structure."

In other action, the board will appoint a committee, including two supervisors, that will examine security issues at Fresno County Hall of Records and the county's parking garage that's shared with the Fresno County Superior Court.

Presiding Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jon Conklin said the court may have money available for parking garage security upgrades.

"We would rather prevent harm than react to it," Conklin told supervisors.

Supervisors also approved a resolution declaring a state of emergency on the drought.

Supervisor Henry R. Perea pushed for mandatory water restrictions for residents in county water works districts.

Alan Weaver, public works and planning director, said his office is working on a water conservation program scheduled to go to supervisors in June.

"We are very limited in our ability to restrict domestic use," Weaver said. "We have greater ability to restrict some outdoor use and we can identify what water wasting is and then deal with the water-wasting aspect."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, or @beebenjamin on Twitter.

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