County Commission formally approves advertisement of flat millage rate for 2019 fiscal year

Public hearings on the budget planned for Sept. 12 and Sept. 27

(Editor’s note: This article was updated on July 19 to correct values of the county’s property for ad valorem tax purposes. Instead of millions, the figures should have been in billions.)

A graphic shows details about Sarasota County millage rates over the past years. Image courtesy Sarasota County

After multiple budget workshops that began in late November 2017, it took only about 2 minutes on July 11 for the Sarasota County Commission to approve the county’s not-to-exceed millage rates for the 2019 fiscal year.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis had confirmed with the board during its last set of budget workshops — conducted on June 19 and June 20 — that the board’s direction was to keep the overall rate at 3.3912 for the 2019 fiscal year.

Kim Radtke, director of the county’s Office of Financial Management, appeared before the commission during its regular meeting on July 11 to request the formal certification of all the proposed millage rates, including those for special districts, so they could be published and mailed to property owners. Truth in Millage notices are sent out in August.

During the final budget workshop scheduled for this fiscal year — set for Aug. 22 — the commissioners could tweak the rates, she noted, but the formal adoption of them would not take place until after public hearings in North and South County. The first hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. The final hearing is set for Thursday, Sept. 27, at the R.L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice.

As proposed, the county’s operating millage rate will rise by 0.04% from 2018 to 2019, Radtke pointed out — from 3.2128 to 3.2140. However, the debt service millage rate will decline from 0.1317 to 0.1222, a drop of 7.21%.

Conversely, the Mosquito Control District millage rate will take a 17.77% jump: from 0.0467 this fiscal year to 0.0550 in FY19, which will begin on Oct. 1.

“So you’re telling us debt is down and mosquitoes are up?” Chair Nancy Detert asked Radtke.

“That’s correct,” Radtke responded.

“Good to know,” Detert said. “We’ve had multiple, long budget meetings and voted to keep the millage rate flat,” Detert continued, “so that’s what you’ve done for us.”

A graphic shows changes in Sarasota County’s property value over the past years. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Commissioner Charles Hines then made the motion to approve the millage rates, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it. The motion passed unanimously.

The County Commission increased the millage rate from 3.34 mills — the level from FY08 through FY12 — to 3.39 in FY13 to provide more funds for mosquito control.

A graphic administrative staff provided the commissioners on June 19 showed that if the county had been able to keep the millage rate flat from the FY00 level — 4.58 mills — through FY19, the county would have received an extra $693 million in ad valorem tax revenue. Even if the board had been able to keep the rate flat from FY07 — when it was 3.69 mills — through FY19, the graphic noted, the county would have received an additional 163 million in property tax revenue, based on property values.

At their peak over the past decade, county property values hit the $62.7-billion mark in the 2008 fiscal year, county data show. This year, the July 1 report from the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office put the overall county property value at $58.4 billion. “Taxable values dropped 38% during the recession,” a county budget workshop chart pointed out.