Mark Taylor
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Johnson County Commissioners reviewed the county’s second quarter interim financial report on Aug. 18.
Perhaps the best news was that Johnson County’s unemployment rate was just more than half of the national rate at the close of the second quarter of 2011.
Kevin Hiskey, deputy director of treasury and financial management, told commissioners the county’s second quarter interim financial report shows that local unemployment has decreased from about 6 percent the same time last year to 5.7 percent this year.
The national unemployment rate has increased to 9.2 percent.
But economic uncertainties continue to affect the county’s overall economic health.
For example, Hiskey said new home sales remained stagnant across the nation during the first two quarters of 2011, and existing home sales increased decreased by about 8 percent from the same period last year.
He added that the county’s major revenue sources – the bulk of which is property tax – are at 74 percent of budget at the end of the second quarter.
“This is primarily due to the largest source of revenue, property tax, receiving its largest payments in the first two quarters,” Hiskey said.
However, county revenues are $1.9 million less at mid-year in 2011 compared to the same time frame last year.
Property tax itself is at 98 percent of budget at the end of the second quarter of 2011, yet receipts for property tax are $7.9 million less than received through the second quarter of 2010.
Conversely, sales and use taxes are up 18.6 percent – or $4.7 million – from mid-year 2010 to mid-year 2011.
Hiskey said there was not much good news to report on the county’s interest investments.
“We had not anticipated that the current interest rate environment would stay as low as it is for as long as it has,” he said.
However, mortgage registration fees – which are considered an indicator of the real estate market – are up about 5 percent, or $250,000 over last year.
When asked by a commissioner for comment, builder/developer Mike Brown of Olathe said the local construction market remains in a slump.
“In our heyday, between 1998-2000, we pulled about 200 building permits in Johnson County,” Brown said.  “Last year I pulled one (building permit). So far this year I have pulled none. So that’s the impact of what is going on in the residential homebuilding community right now.”