Neither is raising its millage rate, but increased property values will bring in more revenue
On the night of Sept. 19, the Sarasota City Commission will hold its final public hearing on its proposed 2017 fiscal year budget. The County Commission will conduct its second required public hearing two days later, at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 21 at the Administration Center in downtown Sarasota.
Neither board is raising its millage rate this year, but increased property values could mean higher taxes for many residents.
The budget the City Commission approved unanimously during its first reading on Sept. 6 totals $206,369,287. Assistant City Administrator John Lege reported that that represents about a 6.7% increase over the 2016 fiscal year budget, or approximately $11.8 million more.
The city’s property value went up 8.26%, Lege added, for a total of $8,785,867,883.
The city is using about $1.4 million from its reserves to balance the new budget, he noted. The unassigned fund balance remaining on Sept. 30, 2017 — the end of the next fiscal year — is projected to be slightly more than $15 million, he added, representing about 24.3% of budgeted expenses.
Lege also pointed out that the city has included funds in its budget for 37 new employees next year, for a total of 660; that is close to the level for the 2009 fiscal year. The city would have 84 fewer workers than it did in the 2008 fiscal year, he said.
The city’s operating millage rate will be 3.1278. That is 4.7% higher than the rolled-back rate of 3.1224, the budget resolution says. The rolled-back rate reflects what the millage would be if the city reduced its budget to account for the increase in ad valorem tax revenue.
The city’s debt service millage for 2017, 0.3003, has declined by 0.0250 mills, a result of the increase in property values and the refinancing of 2007 General Obligation Bonds, a staff memo explains.
That debt service is for the Sarasota Police Department, which was built on Adams Lane several years ago.
The City Commission will hold its second public hearing on the budget during its session beginning at 6 p.m. on Sept. 19 at City Hall, located at 1565 First St. in downtown Sarasota.
During its first public hearing — held Sept. 12 in Venice — the County Commission also unanimously approved its proposed 2017 fiscal year budget and millage rates.
The total county budget is $1,094,764,401, with the Capital Improvement Plan representing approximately $275 million of that.
The value of county property increased 8.2 percent this year, the Property Appraiser’s Office reported this summer, to $50,404,540,609.
The total number of county employees for which funding has been allocated in the new fiscal year is 3,571, an increase of 35 compared to the current fiscal year. Those hired under the purview of the County Commission are expected to number 2,288, while the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is expecting to have the largest total among all other county offices and agencies: 973, up from 962 this year.
The county’s millage rate will remain 3.912, the second lowest in the state, as commissioners have pointed out. The rolled-back figure would be 3.1860, or 6.44% lower, according to one of the resolutions the board approved this week.
Only one member of the public addressed the County Commission on Sept. 12, and he did so during the Open to the Public opportunity at the outset of the meeting. Greg Culey of North Port complained that the board was not reducing the millage rate at all, telling the board he expects county expenses will not go up more than 1 or 2 percent in the new fiscal year.
His Truth in Millage Notice, he added, shows a “huge increase in my ad valorem taxes. … [but] my income doesn’t rise 6 to 7%.”
Therefore, Culey asked the commissioners “to justify to us taxpayers” why the county needs all the additional revenue the property value hike will provide with an unchanged millage rate.
In keeping with standard procedure, none of the board members responded to Culey.