In June 2020, when Guilford County adopted the budget, things looked bleak due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of that bleak outlook county staff and commissioners were highly conservative when they estimated revenue for the fiscal year.
However, revenue streams from sales tax and property tax flowed much stronger than county leaders anticipated, which means that, now, based on the best guesstimates for the fiscal year that ends on Wednesday, June 30, the county will have $23 million more in revenues than anticipated.
Guilford County Manager Mike Halford told the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in a recent work session that, based on the best information available, it looks as though county revenues for the fiscal year that’s just about to end will be $23 million better than predicted.
Halford cautioned that the final numbers aren’t in yet. Sales tax revenue, for instance, goes to the state first, and the county gets it several months later. So, he warned, there might be something unanticipated in the final sales tax numbers from this fiscal year.
Property tax revenue expectations could also be off the mark.
“If we are wrong by 1 percent, that’s $6.3 million,” the manager cautioned of the overall revenue predictions he was making.
However, he noted, the revenue situation does look very encouraging.
Last June, county officials estimated that county revenues would be about $605 million. However, it looks now like the county will pull in over $628 million from combined revenue sources.
“Most of that is in two items – property tax and motor vehicles,” Halford told the board.
Last summer, there was a big concern that sales tax revenue would take a major hit from July 2020 to June 2021 due to business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, but that fear didn’t materialize.
“We talked about sales tax budgeted at $80 million,” Halford said, “because we didn’t know what was going to happen during the pandemic – and that’s looking like something just under $100 million based on performance so far.”
That would account for about $20 million in revenue surplus. On top of that, the county’s property owners were able to pay their property taxes at a rate higher than anticipated.
Some revenue streams from fees and charges were low due to the pandemic. Pools, for instance, were closed last summer.
Also, county’s investment earnings were much lower than expected, Halford said.
“So, all of that comes together to be about plus $23 million or so ahead of where the amended budget is mostly because of sales tax and mostly because of revenue.”
“I think the takeaway here is we’ll be in a relatively good position,” he said of the end of the 2020-2021 fiscal year that’s now less than a week away.