Wicomico County’s finances are in excellent shape thanks to higher than anticipated revenues and cutbacks in expenses, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver announced this week.
“This is certainly good news for everyone in Wicomico County,” Culver said. “We are seeing record employment, which is translating into more revenue for the county than we projected. We are always conservative in our budgeting, and in our approach to taxpayers’ money.”
Based on internal financial statements which have been completed for the fiscal year which ended in June, revenues for the county are up $8.6 million and expenses are $4.3 million less than budgeted, Culver said.
In July 2016, unemployment in the county dropped to 5.5 percent, according to the latest economic report. There were 53,547 people employed in Wicomico County in July, up about 3.4 percent from a year ago. As a result, income taxes in the county were up about $7 million more than was budgeted this year.
“Employment is up over last year and has risen past the previous high in 2006, prior to the official start of the recession. With agriculture and poultry as a base, along with institutional entities, the diversification and regional nature of our economy helps,” said Dave Ryan, Executive Director of Salisbury Wicomico Economic Development.
Property taxes are also up more than $750,000 from what was budgeted even though the County is in the fourth year of its inventory tax phase out.
Recordation taxes are up more than $489,000 than projected. For the first time, Wicomico County’s Finance Department is collecting recordation taxes instead of the Clerk of the Court, resulting in big savings for the county. Recordation taxes are collected when a document is recorded in the Wicomico County Land Records. Previously, the county recordation tax was funneled through the state, which kept a 5 percent fee and then sent the remaining 95 percent back to the county.
“This one simple change to how we collect recordation taxes has meant a significant new revenue source,” Culver said. “Over the past 10 years, we’ve lost more than $2 million to the state. Thanks to Mark Bowen, our Clerk of Court, for recommending this change.”
Meanwhile, expenses across almost every department in the county are down.
“We asked our department heads to make a 2.5 percent cut in their operating expenses in our budget this year, and they have all done an outstanding job keeping their expenses in check,” Culver said.
As a result of this fiscal prudence, the county is projected to be able to add $6.8 million into the county’s reserve fund, rather than using $6.2 million in reserves as had been budgeted for the year. This has resulted in a historically strong fund balance.