NORTHAMPTON: County coffers replete as tax revenue soars

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BY STEFANIE JACKSON, Eastern Shore Post —

Northampton’s projected revenues for the upcoming fiscal year, on which the county will base its FY 2025 budget, total around $42 million — about $2.2 million more than last year.

Northampton’s projected local revenues total nearly $35.7 million. The county’s total revenue is rounded out by about $3.9 million in state funding, around $2.7 million in non-revenue — such as money in the county’s capital and rainy day funds — and about $94,000 in federal funding.

Northampton will send out property tax bills totaling nearly $23 million in FY 2025. Additionally, the county expects to receive about $500,000 in late tax payments.

It’s “interesting; that late payment is about 2% of all the revenue. So, that kind of trickles in, and it’s stayed fairly steady,” said Finance Director John Chandler at the Northampton supervisors meeting on Jan. 23.

The county also receives about $200,000 annually in penalties for late tax payments, which, “amazingly, stays really steady,” he added.

Of the $22.4 million Northampton will receive in property taxes, about 76%, or $18.1 million, will come from real estate taxes.

However, of the $1.4 million in additional property tax revenue Northampton expects to receive in FY 2025, only about $481,000 is from real estate taxes and about $924,000 is from personal property taxes.

“The used car market was more than what we had figured on” last year, Chandler explained.

Supervisor John Coker said two taxpayers had called him recently with concerns about their taxes being late due to U.S. Postal Service delays.

He said in one case, a check that had been mailed in Cape Charles arrived in Eastville 30 days later.

Chandler said that as long as the tax payment was postmarked by the due date, no penalty would be applied.

Northampton has successfully collected 97% of the personal property taxes it is owed annually, except for a dip in collections during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think that’s a good figure,” Chandler said.

He provided an update on Northampton’s property tax relief program for the elderly and disabled, which was modified about two years ago.

As of 2014, requirements for a resident to participate included a household income not exceeding $22,000 and a maximum net worth of $80,000. A participant could receive a tax exemption of up to $400, Chandler said.

Northampton supervisors approved program updates in 2022, allowing the participation of an elderly and disabled person whose household income does not exceed $50,000 and whose net worth is below $100,000. The maximum tax exemption was increased to $1,000.

Chandler noted that in 2021, Northampton had granted $27,000 in tax discounts to 80 applicants.

In 2023, Northampton provided $52,000 in tax discounts to 102 people.

Applicants must be at least 65 years old or permanently and totally disabled. Applications are due April 15, Chandler said.

The county expects sales tax revenues of $2.15 million, or $150,000 more than last year.

Northampton also expects $2.1 million from the additional 1% sales tax the county imposes to benefit its local public schools, an increase of $200,000.

“That’s huge,” Coker said. “That’s why we didn’t have to raise taxes for our high school-middle school.”

That revenue will help fund renovations and new construction at the Northampton middle and high school complex.

Northampton expects about $285,000 in cigarette tax revenue, nearly an $80,000 decrease due to a statewide trend of fewer cigarettes being sold, said County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski.

Northampton also anticipates $750,000 in transient occupancy taxes from hotels, motels, and other temporary accommodations in the county at large, an increase of $100,000.

Of that $750,000, 60% will benefit Northampton tourism and 40% will remain in the general fund.

About $175,000 is anticipated in transient occupacy taxes from the town of Cape Charles, a $25,000 increase.

Food and beverage taxes are expected to be $500,000, an increase of $31,250.

Northampton anticipates nearly $235,000 in permits, fees, and licenses, including $150,000 in building permits and $65,000 in planning and zoning fees.

Fines and forfeitures are projected to reach $262,000, an increase of $90,000.

Chandler said interest “was the big one from last year’s budget that made a huge difference of us being able to balance the budget … and it’s still up there.”

The county has more than $4.5 million in the bank at nearly 3% interest. That interest should total about $100,000 in FY 2025.

But Chandler’s “favorite thing” is Northampton’s interest on investments, which is projected to be nearly $1.6 million in FY 2025, an increase of $225,000.

The $1.6 million in interest will come from a local government investment pool, a type of mutual fund.

The fund provides a seven-day return of almost 5.7% and contains more than $40 million, “by far, the highest number we’ve ever had … That’s really helping,” Chandler said.

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