City Commission unanimously approves lower millage rate for 2023 fiscal year and gives final OK to new budget

Millage rate dropping to 3 mills

With unanimous votes this week, the Sarasota City Commission approved the city’s 2023 fiscal year budget, which will go into effect on Oct. 1, as well as an operating millage rate of 3 mills.

The total proposed budget for 2023 is $251,933,075, which is up 8%, compared to the budget for the current fiscal year, a city chart shows.

City staff is using $903,381 of unassigned fund balance to supplement the 2023 General Fund budget, which is expected to result in that reserve account ending up with $26,823,988 by the Sept. 30, 2023 conclusion of the 2023 fiscal year, another chart notes.

During a July budget workshop, city Finance Director Kelly Strickland said that the new fund balance would represent the amount needed for two to three months of city operations.

The General Fund, which is made up largely of property tax revenue, has the least constraints, per city policy, on how its “pot” of money can be used.

Gas tax revenue and payments accompanying development applications submitted to the city also go into the General Fund, a city chart points out.

Total revenue in the General Fund for the 2023 fiscal year is anticipated to be $82,577,679, with expenditures adding up to $85,831,873.

The FY 2023 operating millage rate of 3 mills is down from 3.1372 mills this fiscal year. One mill represents $1,000 of property value.

The 3-mill rate is 8.34% higher than the “rolled-back” rate would have been, the Sept. 19 city budget resolution said. The rolled-back rate refers to the millage needed to bring in the same amount of property tax revenue that the city collected for the 2022 fiscal year.

The value of property in the city rose approximately 18.5% this year, as shown in data produced by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office this summer, in accord with state law.

During a July 26 City Commission meeting, Finance Director Strickland pointed out that the owner of a home valued at $200,000 would pay $33 less in property taxes for the 2023 fiscal year than the individual paid for this fiscal year.

Because of a slightly lower debt service millage for the 2023 fiscal year, Strickland added, the total proposed millage rate for FY 2023 is 3.1782, compared to 3.3472 mills in FY 2022.

The city budget for the 2023 fiscal year will include pay for 26 new employees, bringing the total to 802. The figure for this year is 777.

On Sept. 19, the city commissioners had to halt a public hearing on a new Comprehensive Plan amendment designed to encourage construction of affordable housing units so they could conduct the final budget hearing. (See the editorial in this issue.) City Auditor and Clerk Shayla Griggs reminded them that the budget hearing had been advertised to begin at 5:30 p.m.

Thus, with the anticipation of several more hours of discussion on the Comprehensive Plan changes and related ordinances, the commissioners did not ask for any final presentation on the proposed budget.

They also took formal votes to approve the 2023 fiscal year millage rates for the Golden Gate Streetscape Special District (the new total is 1.4474 mills, down from 1.5830 mills); the St. Armands Business Improvement District (2 mills); and the Downtown Improvement District (2 mills).