City Commission keeps millage rate at same level for 2021 fiscal year

Total proposed expenditures down almost 12% as result of pandemic’s effect on revenue sources

These are details of the proposed City of Sarasota budget for the 2021 fiscal year. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

After a review of the proposed Fiscal Year 2020-21 budget over two days this week, the Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously on July 28 to set the preliminary operating millage rate at 3.2632 mills, the same rate in effect for the current fiscal year.

The total proposed city budget for the 2021 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1, includes expenditures of $225,483,405, down 11.94% from the adopted budget figure of $256,061,555 for the current fiscal year.

Expenditures from the General Fund, which largely is made up of property tax revenue, are proposed at $67,844,653, a 9.77% decrease from the amount for the current fiscal year.

The debt service on bonds the city issued to construct the Sarasota Police Department headquarters on Adams Lane will decline from 0.2339 mills this year to 0.2234 mills in the 2021 fiscal year, according to figures provided to the commissioners.

When considering a 3.2632 operating millage rate and the lower debt service, the annual tax bill for a homesteaded property with a $200,000 taxable value would be reduced by $2.10, a city news release notes.

This graphic shows the changes in property tax values in the city over the past several years. The Newtown Community Redevelopment Area is funded by a tax-increment financing mechanism. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

“The proposed budget focuses on maintaining essential services while responding to and restoring the economic health of the Sarasota community,” the release says. With city revenues having decreased as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposed balanced budget incorporates financial-tightening measures, including a hold on hiring new personnel and the addition of $1.1 million in savings citywide because of vacant positions that will not be funded for the entire year, the release adds.

The assessed value of property increased citywide by 4.67% this year, based on the July 1 estimate by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office. Values in the Newtown Community Redevelopment Area increased 7.89% with the taxable value at $187,184,296.

Among other details of the proposed budget, half-cent sales tax revenue is projected to fall from $5.2 million in the 2019 fiscal year to $4.6 million in FY 2021, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on the economy. Additionally, city staff expects state revenue sharing to decrease from $2.02 million in the 2019 fiscal year to $1.65 million in FY 2021. The budget document prepared by city administrative staff explains that the revenue sharing from the state is funded through 1.3409% of the sales and use tax collections, a 1-cent municipal fuel tax and 12.5% of the state alternative fuel user decal fees.

This graphic shows trends in state revenue sharing. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The total revenue in the 2019 fiscal year was the highest over the past 10 years, according to a graphic in the document.

During the City Commission’s special meeting on July 28 to consider the millage rates, Kelly Strickland, director of financial administration, pointed out, “In these precarious times of a pandemic, revenues have been conservatively projected using an analytical review, reductions in historical receipts, state projects, comparisons with [Sarasota County] and other city counterparts.”

She added, “The revenues will be continuously monitored throughout the [2021 fiscal] year, with interim monthly financial statements and quarterly reports to the City Commission.”

This graph compares the total number of full-time city employees whose salaries have been covered by General Fund revenues each fiscal year to the city’s overall population count for the same year. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

Two public hearings on the proposed budget are scheduled as follows:

  • Thursday, Sept. 10, at 6 p.m.
  • Monday, Sept. 21, at 6 p.m.

The proposed budget is available on the city’s website:

The preliminary millage rate will be included on the TRIM (Truth in Millage) notices that typically are mailed out in August.

Taxing authorities, including the City of Sarasota, cannot raise preliminary millage rates once they are established; however, rates can be lowered, under state law.