Scott County gov center

Scott County Government Center.

The average Scott County property owner will see an increase in the county’s portion of their tax bill under the maximum tax levy approved by county officials this week.

On Tuesday, the Scott County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the maximum 2022 levy of roughly $81.28 million, which is a 3.99% increase over the 2021 levy.

The average property with a market value of roughly $358,000 will see an average increase of $41.42, according to the county.

The county board may choose to decrease spending when the final levy is adopted in December, but the levy cannot be increased following this week’s approval.

Danny Lenz, the county’s deputy administrator and chief financial officer, said the county’s financial outlook took a hit earlier this year when revenue estimates came in much lower than the projected revenue increase factored into the county’s financial modeling.

Reduced revenue estimates contributed to raising the county’s projected baseline levy to 6.19% earlier this year.

To adjust the baseline levy down to 3.99%, Lenz said planned expenditures were reduced by over $900,000 and budgeted revenues were increased by $800,000.

With less room in the budget for unforeseen expenditures, the county may need to draw from its fund balance to close any gaps next year, according to Lenz.

It’s possible the county will end 2022 in the red, he added.

Pressure on county staff

The 3.99% increase adds some full-time positions, such as two corrections officers, but squeezes out over $1.3 million in other departmental requests, according to county documents.

Staffing requests left out of the proposed budget include a deputy emergency management director, four additional emergency dispatchers, four corrections officers, a probation officer, a community corrections supervisor, a children’s mental health case manager and several other positions.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lenz said the county is exhausting its options to reduce the levy in sustainable ways without significant programming cuts.

If the county board doesn’t favor increases, Lenz said officials will need to begin a conversation about what programs and services will be cut rather than asking existing staff to continue doing more work with less support and resources.

The county is already struggling to hire and turnover is reaching alarming rates, he said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioners Tom Wolf, Mike Beard and Dave Beer urged county staff to continue looking for ways to decrease the levy before the final adoption in December.

County Administrator Lezlie Vermillion cautioned any decreases to the levy would likely result in significant changes to the county’s level of service with some programs, such as community corrections and social services, already under strain.

The county board will discuss the budget again next month. A vote to adopt the final levy is scheduled for Dec. 14.