Orange County approves budget

The Orange County Commissioners Court unanimously approved a 2012-13 county budget at its meeting Monday, Sept. 24. The vote came after a budget workshop to make final adjustments earlier in the day. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said the county will raise about $1.3 million more in total property taxes, or 5.47 percent, over the past year.

Thibodeaux said none of the increase in property tax revenue comes from an increase in taxes; rather, it’s primarily from increases in appraised values. If a home has a higher appraisal value than last year, taxes will naturally be higher. The current total Orange County tax rate, excluding homestead, disability or senior citizen exemptions, is .5299, or 52.99 cents in tax on $100 in property valuation.

According to the agenda, of the $1.3 million increase in property taxes included in the new budget, less than $150,000 is from new property added to the tax roll this year. The other approximately $1.15 million in increased revenue from property taxes comes from homes and businesses with higher values over last year.

Orange County Appraisal District’s Chief Appraiser Michael Cedars said most of the increase in appraised values came in the form of taxes on industry.

“Most (appraisals of) homes stayed static this year with real estate being in the state it is,” Cedars said. “The last few years in our business have been really tough. The real estate market has just been awful. The increase (in property tax revenue) was mostly from industrial tax, and most of that was inventory.”

Cedars explained that raw materials onsite are included in the appraisal of the property. He said he believes the chemical industry in Orange County is doing better and attracting more investors and more new construction, causing the increase in inventory in certain businesses.

Thibodeaux said the total 2012-13 budget for Orange County is $43,733,255. He said that’s lower than last year’s $45.1 million budget, even though everyday operating expenditures are higher from $39 million last year to $41 million this year. He said most of the increase could be attributed to payroll raises. Thibodeaux also said Orange County is expecting federal grants totaling from $2.7 to $3 million promised last year but not received for damage from Hurricane Ike. He said the amount has not been included in the budget yet and could contribute to a potential budget surplus, which Thibodeaux concluded “is not bad to have.”