Johnson County’s total proposed budget is easier to understand when broken into sections. Of the nearly $929 million budget, the portion related to the working county general expenditure budget is only $328 million. The remainder is tied to other local taxes, specific fee funds such as wastewater, or taxing authorities such as parks and libraries, and also includes reserves.
To understand how you can end up at one-third of the total budget when you boil things down to county tax dollars requires understanding several different budgeting concepts.
1) Subtract the reserves: Think about the county’s estimated reserves as your savings account…money that you don’t plan to spend unless there’s an emergency. We include reserves as a budget line item in case something unforeseen arises, but only spend them after official action is taken by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). For 2016, the reserves total $186 million.
$929 million - $186 million = $743 million
2) Subtract the double-entry accounting: Some of our expenditures are classified as “expenses” for accounting purposes, but they don’t involve actual dollars leaving the county. This could be money that is transferred between funds, or money that shows up in two different places in the budget. This is one of the more complicated concepts, but the important thing to remember is that double-entry items are shown twice but only spent once, and make the budget seem bigger. For 2016, double-entry accounting totals $80 million.
$743 million - $80 million = $663 million
3) Subtract expenses funded by non-tax revenue sources: Many of our expenditures are supported by fees, specific dedicated revenue sources, and grants. They do not involve taxing decisions by the BOCC, and aren’t considered part of Johnson County Taxing District’s “working budget.” For 2016, these expenditures total $252 million.
$663 million - $252 million = $411 million
4) Subtract expenses involving county operations supported by revenue from other taxing authorities: We talked about taxing authorities in a blog entry in June. Johnson County Library and Johnson County Park & Recreation District are county operations and the BOCC does set their mill levies, but they statutorily separate from the county with their own taxing authority, so we also subtract them to get down to the county’s “working budget.”
$411 million - $83 million = $328 million
What’s left is what we like to refer to as the Johnson County Taxpayers’ Budget; it reflects the total real expenditures for the general county operations that are primarily supported by local tax dollars and totals $328 million…about 35% of the original $929 million.