Budget hearings scheduled for September
It took less than 4 minutes on July 13 for the Sarasota County commissioners to vote unanimously to adopt a resolution certifying the proposed property tax millage rates for the 2023 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1.
The total, proposed millage rate is 3.4463 mills, a 0.28% decline from the 2022 rate of 3.4561 mills. The change results from a drop in the debt service millage to pay off the bonds the county issued — with voter approval — for the North Extension of The Legacy Trail from Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch to downtown Sarasota, as well as the North Port Connector from Venice. (See the related article in this issue.)
Each mill represents $1 per $1,000 in property value. Thus, the owner of a house valued at $300,000 would pay $300 in property taxes.
The millage rates that the board members adopted via the July 13 resolution are the not-to-exceed values that state law mandates for release every July. However, only the General Operating Millage Rate will be included on Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices that the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office usually mails out in August, county staff noted in a July 13 memo included in the agenda packet.
As Kim Radtke, director of the county’s Office of Financial Management, pointed out during her presentation, the millage rates could be lowered in final commission votes in September, but they could not go higher than the levels set this week.
The commissioners will conduct their two public hearings on the proposed FY 2023 budget on Sept. 14 and Sept. 27, she added.
Further, as shown in a chart provided in the commission’s July 13 agenda packet, the debt service millage for the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP) will be down 21.79% for the 2023 fiscal year.
In 1999, as the county website explains, voters approved a referendum calling for a not-to-exceed property tax of 0.25 mills “for the acquisition, protection and management of environmentally sensitive lands.” Then, in 2005, voters approved a second referendum that extended the ESLPP through 2029 and expanded “the county’s land protection efforts to include the acquisition and management of neighborhood parkland.”
Chair Alan Maio asked for Radtke’s confirmation on July 13 that he correctly recalled that the county “would have collected from everybody another billion dollars” in property tax revenue, through the 2023 fiscal year, if the commissioners had kept the millage rate at the level set for the 2000 fiscal year.
“That is correct,” she responded.
The FY 2000 total millage rate was 4.46 mills. Since the 2016 fiscal year, it has been held steady at 3.34 mills, not counting the millage for the Mosquito Control Program, the ESLPP, and The Legacy Trail, as shown on a chart presented during the June budget workshops.
Maio typically makes a note of that additional funding as he and his colleagues have considered proposed county budgets in recent years.
County staff also has pointed out that, if the millage had remained at the 2007 fiscal year level of 3.67 mills, the county would have taken in approximately $245 million more through the 2023 fiscal year. However, that chart was prepared prior to the release of the July 1 property values, which are required by state law.
The June 1 report on property values, released by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office in late May, said the total county property value for this year was up 16.71%, compared to the certified value in 2021. However, the July 1 report put that year-over-year jump at approximately 17.76%. The July 1 value was 0.9% higher than the June 1 figure, a July 13 county staff memo says.
Thus, the figures on the slide that staff showed the commissioners during their budget workshops on June 23 and 24 did not reflect the July 1 data.
The preliminary, total proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year, which will begin on Oct. 1, is $1,452,597,133, as noted in the July 13 staff memo included in the board’s agenda materials.
Further, on July 13, the board members authorized the mailing and publication of a notice of a formal public hearing on the proposed non-ad valorem assessments for the next fiscal year. That advertisement will be issued in mid-August, the staff memo says.
Those assessments affect the county’s Fire-Rescue District, the Solid Waste District, and various other districts, including neighborhood lighting districts, such as those in Newtown Estates and DeSoto Lakes.