Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing presented his fiscal 2020-2021 budget recommendation to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, May 21.

Lawing proposed a county property tax rate of 73.05 cents per $100 of assessed value – which would keep the county’s tax rate frozen at the current level. County residents can expect that the budget adopted by the Republican-majority Board of Commissioners will also not include a tax increase.

Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips made it known publically last month that the board under his leadership would not be approving a tax increase this year – and Phillips no doubt conveyed that message to Lawing in private as well. Some county staff have expressed in recent years the need for the county to raise taxes and generate more revenue. However, the commissioners haven’t approved one in nearly a decade.

The Board of Commissioners will undoubtedly make changes to Lawing’s recommended budget before adopting the county budget next month.

In his budget message, Lawing stressed that the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a real blow to the county’s finances and also that there’s not enough money to pay for everything the county would like to accomplish.

“Limited growth in our major revenue sources, increases in demand for many of our current services, and the need to plan for significant future community needs presented constraints on what we have been able to accomplish with this budget,” Lawing said in his budget message. “The current tax rate does not produce enough recurring revenues to maintain the current budgets for major facility maintenance needs, the set-aside for future county infrastructure projects, or to expand services in areas where we are not meeting our performance standards. In addition, the current tax rate does not provide enough recurring revenue to address the operating deficit the county had at the end of Fiscal Year 2018-2019 and is likely to have at the end of Fiscal Year 2019-20.”

The county’s 2020-2021 budget is based on projected county revenues from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, and, when Lawing was asked before the meeting how one projects future revenue in this highly unusual economy, he responded, “Very carefully.”

In his official budget message, he stated the same thing in a more formal way: “Projecting revenue in an environment where the economy was shut down and now is beginning to re-open has been a complex undertaking. There are many unknowns with regard to how long it will take for the economy to recover and if the reopening will cause a resurgence of the virus spread. “