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  • Last modified 2303 days ago (July 26, 2012)

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How to read a budget

It’s the time of year that government bodies publish their proposed budgets for the coming year for public review before final approval, but for someone who isn’t familiar with the system, reading the notices can be confusing.

Marion County Clerk Carol Maggard said there are three numbers that matter the most in published budgets: ad valorem tax, assessed valuation, and estimated tax rate. The ad valorem tax is the number the governing body actually sets in its budget, and they find that number by subtracting estimated revenue from proposed expenditures — if a body plans to spend $100,000 and expects $25,000 from other revenue sources, it needs to collect $75,000 of property taxes.

The assessed valuation is the taxable value of all property in the area the governing body covers. The taxable value of homes is 11.5 percent of their appraised value; commercial property, 25 percent; and agricultural land, 30 percent, for example.

To find the tax rate necessary to meet the ad valorem tax proposal, divide the ad valorem tax by the assessed valuation, then divide by 1,000 — this gives the estimated tax rate in mills. One mill is 11.5 cents of taxes per $1,000 appraised value for a house, 25 cents for commercial property, or 30 cents for agricultural land.

The median home value in Marion County is about $85,000 — 1 mill of property taxes is $9.78 on such a home.

Published budgets also include the final figures for the previous year and estimated figures for the current year. Maggard said those are good for comparison.

Every budget publication also includes a time and place where a budget hearing will be held. The appropriate governing body cannot give final approval of a budget until after giving members of the public a chance to speak about the budget and voice any objections.

After the budget hearing and approval, residents’ options if they don’t like the budget are few and far between. Unfortunately, most people wait until they get their tax bill to voice their displeasure rather than going to a budget hearing.

Last modified July 26, 2012

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