Tax digest decrease slows to just 1% less in ’13

The idea of a county’s tax digest showing declining numbers could hardly be called good news. But given the 20 percent decrease in the value of property that has occurred over the past three years, the potential of seeing the tax digest decrease by only 1 percent this year could make the argument that Fayette County may be turning the corner on the Great Recession.

Fayette County Chief Appraiser Joel Benton said the overall tax digest looks like it will be down close to 1 percent this year. Benton stressed that while those numbers are preliminary, the figures project that the value of the county’s residential properties will decrease by approximately one-half percent while industrial properties are expected to decrease by 1.5 percent and commercial properties appear to be headed for a 2 percent decrease.

“Residential has largely stabilized in Fayette County,” Benton said. “And commercial and industrial properties are lagging behind residential.”

Lending to the small decrease in the residential component are the final tallies of last year’s assessment appeals and the adjustments that come from a state requirement to include items such as short sales, bank sales after foreclosures and auction sales.

Put in perspective, a 1 percent decrease in the overall digest could be considered good news compared to what Fayette County experienced during and after the years of the Great Recession.

While riding the wave of significant and sustained economic growth for the better part of four decades, Fayette’s digest was essentially flat in 2009, followed by a decrease of more than 6 percent in 2010, another decrease of approximately 4 percent in 2011 and an unprecedented 10.39 percent drop in 2012.

Agricultural, residential, commercial and industrial properties make up the overwhelming majority of the total tax digest. Motor vehicles make up approximately 6 percent of the total digest while other tax revenue sources such as timber harvests, mobile homes and heavy equipment account for only a small fraction of the total.

The tax digest has a direct impact on local government budgets since the county and municipalities rely heavily on revenues from sources such as property taxes and sales taxes. The Fayette County School System also depends on tax digest revenues since approximately half its revenues come from local tax sources.