Orange County’s $3.4 billion budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 provides more services and improved infrastructure with no increase in taxes for the third year in a row for local citizens. The new budget reflects the community's positive gains in job creation, economic development, property values, sales tax collections, and the continued, record-breaking numbers of domestic and international visitors in Orange County.
Since the height of the recession, Orange County's unemployment rate has dropped from 11.3 percent in late 2010 to our current 6.2 percent in August 2014 — a figure that represents an increase of more than 87,000 jobs from January 2011 to August 2014.
Property values are estimated to be up 7.5 percent countywide for the coming budget year. Orange County has not raised the countywide millage rate for 25 years.
With nearly 60 million people visiting Orange County in 2013, sales tax and tourist tax collections rose to record amounts. While revenue sources such as property taxes and impact fees are still below their pre-recession levels, prudent fiscal policies and conservative spending provide a solid platform for continued recovery.
Thanks to the six percent tax that guests and visitors pay at hotel rooms and vacation rentals, increased tourism tax revenue continues to fund important quality-of-life amenities in Orange County. The fiscal year 2014-2015 budget for the Tourist Development Tax is $194.5 million — a two percent increase over the current year budget. These funds are used for economic drivers like the Orange County Convention Center and the construction and renovation of other venues like the Amway Center, the Citrus Bowl, the new Major League Soccer Stadium, and the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
This fiscal year, sales tax revenue is budgeted at $154.5 million, a seven percent increase over the current year budget. Healthy sales tax revenues are important to Orange County and our citizens because of their "versatility." For instance, nearly $67 million in sales tax funds will be used in the Public Works budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 to maintain county roads and drainage structures. Sales tax revenue has become an integral piece of the Public Works' budget given the lack of growth in gas tax revenue for more than a decade.
As a result of new construction and rising property values, our property tax revenue — Orange County's largest source of revenue for general government services — is anticipated to increase 7.5 percent. The budget for countywide property taxes in fiscal year 2014-2015 is $400.9 million. These funds are used for a wide variety of services and infrastructure improvements, such as Corrections, Parks, Animal Services, Public Transportation, and Code Enforcement. Public safety continues to be one of Orange County's top priorities, and accounts for 54 percent of the overall tax-based operating budget, with $484 million allocated for the Sheriff's Office, Fire Rescue and Corrections.