Cobb could begin the process of borrowing an estimated $70 million in short-term loans known as tax anticipation notes Tuesday — down from the $90 million in TANs borrowed last year.
The borrowing is a financial stopgap the county performs between fiscal years, a practice dating back to the early 1980s, as Cobb collects most of its revenues in the form of property taxes near the end of its fiscal year, which closes Sept. 30. The county therefore must take out TANs earlier in the fiscal year to pay for its operations, says Bill Volckmann, the county’s finance director.
“It’s basically a short-term loan — when we borrow it, we’ll close this spring and we’ll pay it off at the end of November. It’s just a short-term gap because of the timing of when we collect most of our revenues in the fall,” Volckmann said. “There’s really no concern from a citizen’s standpoint of the county being unable to repay that. It’s more of a timing issue.”
When the county brings in property taxes, it pays back the TANs. Then it uses the remainder of the revenues to continue operations through the middle of the next year before another TANs issuance to continue the cycle, Volckmann said.
Last year the county borrowed $90 million through its use of TANs after borrowing $60 million the previous year — an increase Volckmann attributed to higher costs and the need to compensate for the use of nearly $20 million in one-time funds to fill a gap in the fiscal 2018 budget.
This year’s decrease in TANS, he said, is due in part to growth in the county’s tax digest, as well as an increased millage rate. Chairman Mike Boyce’s proposed property tax increase of 1.7 mills was approved by a 3-2 vote at a late July commissioner meeting.
Boyce proposed a fiscal 2019 budget of $966.1 million. Its proposed general fund budget of $454.1 million included a general fund property tax hike from 6.76 mills to 8.46 mills. This increase, coupled with the rising digest, would generate an estimated $283.5 million in property tax revenue, an increase of about $65 million over fiscal 2018.
In town hall meetings, Boyce said he would propose no change to the county’s current millage rate, though any rate change is approved by commissioners later this year would not affect the amount the county needs to borrow via TANs this year. The county is expected to set its 2019 millage rate later this summer.
If commissioners give the go-ahead Tuesday, Volckmann and his office would begin the process needed to issue the TANs, which will include a competitive bid process to find a lender who will offer the lowest interest cost to the county. He expects a follow-up measure to issue the TANs later this spring.
Cobb commissioners will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Cobb Government Building.