By JULIE B. MAGLIO
County Commissioners approved a millage rate reduction of .25 mills over last year’s millage rate during the first budget hearing on Sept. 9, 2020. Because of an increase in property values, this will result in an increase in property tax revenues for the county. The fiscal year 2021 tentative budget is $537,678,748 with 25.99% coming from the general fund.
The First Budget Hearing on Sept. 9, 2020, included a presentation of major changes to the recommended budget which are included in the tentative budget. Those changes are as follows:
• General Fund Millage Rate reduced by .25 mil
• Addition of Canal Dredge project- $210,000
• Deletion of Community Services Department $157,931
• Kass Circle Public safety project for FY 2021 funded with gas tax ($75,000)
• Reserve for future space needs and budget for move of administrative offices funded with revenues received from sale of surplus property ($783,925)
• Revenue estimates from State received -General fund figures increased, gas taxes decreased
• Economic Development/Airport Support Specialist added $63,696
• Cost Allocation Plan finalized increased General Fund revenues $112,000
• Reserve setup for Code Enforcement/MPO liabilities $709,406
• Actuals to date for Local ½ sales tax over $1 million more than estimated
• Revenues reduced for Marine Deputy ($90,648)
• Addition of 4EMS/ Fire Positions
• Multiple carryovers added, including $7.7 million for CARES Act
Budget Director Stephanie Russ explained that by the final budget hearing there will be a couple of million dollars more in revenues from the sale of surplus lands which has not been budgeted at this time.
The revenues from Guest Services (kayak and canoe vendor at the Weeki Wachee State Park) for a Marine Deputy ($90,648) was removed because Guest Services will not be renewing their contract with the county to take kayaks out of the Weeki Wachee River at Rogers Park. A condition of their contract for kayak removal required them to pay the salary of a Marine Deputy.
A red-green chart with new revenues minus new expenses currently shows a $3 million deficit for FY 2021, but $3,274,000 is budgeted for one-time use capital improvement projects (from the general fund).
“So you really wouldn’t have been in the reds, you would have been in the green,” says Russ.
While the general fund millage has been reduced by .25 mills, Russ showed a slide comparing the proposed aggregate millage rate for FY 2021 to the rolled-back rate. She explained that the proposed aggregate millage rate for FY 2021 is 9.4844 which is more than the current year aggregate rolled-back rate of 9.2126 by 2.95%.
(The rolled-back rate is the rate that would result in revenues equal to the amount brought in by the previous year’s millage rate.)
Commissioner Holcomb took the opportunity to point out that the general fund millage rate for last year was 7.8912. He wished to make sure that people understood the tentative general fund millage rate of 7.6412 is actually a tax-rate decrease over last year’s general fund millage rate.
Commissioner Champion provided additional clarification stating,
“I’m happy we went down .25… that’s a positive thing, but we can’t sit back and say okay, well we reduced it from last year. It's still a tax increase. Their taxes are still going up and that's because of the economy which is great… But that 2.95 percent is a 2.95 percent tax increase and you got to be clear about that- it's still an increase over last year.”
Chairman Mitten commented,
“What we're doing with this budget and what I am challenging the next board to do as growth is occurring and as we're seeing the prices of these buildings go up [residential and commercial] is to knock out the capital improvement plan projects and strive not to increase the operational need for these extra dollars because there's some serious moneys out there. We just went through it yesterday and if we target and use this growth going forward with all that carried forward… focus on those big-ticket capital improvement plan items, the one-time budget expenditures… I think we're gonna be much better as a county so I appreciate the spirit of that.”
Vice-Chairman Alllocco commented on the new development occurring in the county right now.
“When you see a lot of this growth in the community; new projects, new homes, it doesn’t immediately go into the tax rolls. There is a delay. And so a lot of what you're seeing in the community isn't gonna hit the tax roll because taxes are paid in arrears. They're gonna be on the 2022 fiscal year budget and we should see a significant increase in dollars I believe next year because of all the growth that you’re seeing now.”
Commissioner Champion cautioned that inflation may have a big impact on the economy in the near future due to the government currently printing so much money to curb the effects of COVID-19.
“It could be really bad. And if you start seeing a downturn in the market and your millage rate is already 7.64- it’s gonna get painful.”
A motion to approve the tentative millage rate of 7.6412 was approved unanimously. The motion to approve the tentative budget was also approved unanimously and the Final Budget Hearing date and time was set for Sept. 22, 2020 at 5:01pm in the county commission chambers.
FY 2021 Budget Articles: