A closer look PDF E-mail

It’s number-crunching time in Hamilton County, and across the state and nation.

The process of preparing, proposing, adopting and implementing budgets for all taxing entities has consumed hours and hours of time in recent weeks, as well as a great deal of space in this publication. Schools, cities and in fact all tax-supported governmental subdivisions are required to publish their financial plans in the form of budget notices, and also host public hearings inviting citizens to share their thoughts in open forum. The News-Register staff has attended as many of those meetings as possible, and printed numerous stories in our on-going effort to keep the community informed.

There is a lot of detail in those line-item budgets, which all add up to a year-end bill to be paid by taxpaying citizens. It can all be a bit overwhelming, quite frankly. Judging by the lack of attendance at those public hearings, citizens are busy with their own lives and trust our elected officials, and respective administrative staffs, to handle the job.

This year seems different, however, if for no other reason than the unprecedented surge in property valuations. The county assessor’s office certified property values in late August at $2.21 billion, which is a whopping $470.5 million more than just a year ago. That’s a staggering sum, boosted in part by $72.8 million in new growth.

Factoring that massive valuation growth into the budgeting process, we suggested early on that tax levies should go down across the board. Some did, as much as 21 cents per $100 valuation at Hampton Public Schools, and some did not.

Hoping to add some perspective to this process, the News-Register will be delving into the numbers with a series that begins next week. Our goal is to provide 10 years of financial history for Aurora, Hampton, Giltner and High Plains school districts, as well as Hamilton County, the city of Aurora and the villages of Hampton, Giltner, Phillips, Marquette and Stockham.

With the help of clerks and superintendents in each of those entities, we plan to report the valuation, total and general fund budget numbers, tax levy, tax asking and actual expenditures for each of the last 10 years.

The most significant number in that list, in our view, is actual tax asking. How much more, or less, money is spent from year to year? And, how did revenues and expenses change to reach the final number?

Those are questions every family/business can relate to and understand. Stay tuned for a broader perspective, and some interesting reading.

Kurt Johnson

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