Special district millage rates fluctuate
Although much of their focus that evening was on the damage that Hurricane Ian had inflicted on county residents, on Oct. 3, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously for the second, required time to approve the various millage rates and the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.
The budget they adopted totaled $1,455,064,140, as noted in a memo provided by County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.
The aggregate millage rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year is 3.8321 mills, which marks a 14.52% increase over the rolled-back rate of 3.3462 mills.
The rolled-back rate reflects the figure that would have brought in the same amount of property tax revenue that the county received in the 2021-22 fiscal year. This year, the value of county property rose 17.76%. That means that even with no increase in the county’s operating millage rate, many homeowners are facing higher tax bills.
Each mill represents $1,000 in property value.
County staff has estimated that the county will receive $223,820,872 in property tax revenue this fiscal year; in the past fiscal year, the total was $192,173,183.
It was not until the 2021 fiscal year that the revenue exceeded the high mark set before the Great Recession. In the 2008 fiscal year, the figure was $175,697,434, staff noted in a budget document. In FY 2021, the total was $178,410,689.
The low point during the recession was the 2013 fiscal year, when the total was $108,831,115, that chart shows.
The county’s general operating millage rate for the new fiscal year is 3.2497 mills, which is up 15.04%, compared to the rolled-back rate of 2.8249 mills.
The Mosquito Control District millage is 0.0500 mills, which reflects an 11.86% hike, compared to the rolled-back rate of 0.0447 mills.
The voted debt service millage for bonds that the county issued — with voter approval in November 2018 — for the extension of The Legacy Trail from Palmer Ranch in Sarasota to downtown Sarasota and to North Port is 0.0551 mills.
Finally, the debt service millage for the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program (ESLPP) is 0.0915 mills for the 2022-23 fiscal year. In 1999, as the county website explains, voters first approved a referendum for a not-to-exceed 0.25-mill ad valorem tax that would be imposed through 2019. The goal was to raise money “for the acquisition, protection and management of environmentally sensitive lands,” as the website noted.
Then, in 2005, during a second referendum, voters agreed to extend the ESLPP through 2029 and expanded its provisions so the county could use part of the revenue to purchase and manage neighborhood parkland.
Thanks to the ESLPP, the website points out, “82 properties containing more than 37,000 acres of land have been protected through land purchases and conservation easements …” Another 24 properties, totaling 112 acres, have been acquired through the Neighborhood Parkland Program, “expanding existing parks and connecting people to trails, waterways and beaches,” the website adds.
The Capital Projects portion of the 2022-23 budget — which will pay for a variety of construction projects and other initiatives — totals $176,732,032.
The largest single amount for a particular type of initiative in the county’s Capital Improvement Program for the 2022-23 fiscal year is $28,936,489, which will go to potable water projects. “General Government” initiatives are in second place, with an allocation of $14,280,285, followed by wastewater improvements, $12,766,626; and “Traffic Circulation,” $11,552,734.
A footnote for the last item says the funds are necessary to achieve a Level of Service of D for the peak drive hour on roads within the Urban Service Boundary and Level of Service C for the peak hour outside the Urban Service Boundary, “plus other commitments.”
“Level of Service” refers to a driver’s perception of how smoothly traffic is flowing, with A being the best and F being the worst.
Areas within the Urban Service Boundary are those with county utilities, such as water and sewer.
Millage rates win final approval, as well
Additionally, on Oct. 3, the commissioners approved numerous district millage rates.
For example, the Siesta Key Public Improvement District millage rose 182.09% this fiscal year — from 1.1563 mills to 3.2618 mills. Owners of property in the area where the county undertook the Siesta Village beautification initiative in 2008 and 2009 are assessed each year for the upkeep of that district.
A new Village maintenance contract scheduled to come before the County Commission later this year calls for more services than in the past, to maintain what county leaders more than a decade ago referred to as the “resort-like features” of the Village.
However, numerous county districts will see decreases in their millage rates for 2022-23. Among them are the Gulf Gate Lighting District, whose millage declined 2.21%, from 0.1809 mills in the 2021-22 fiscal year to 0.1769 mills in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The millage in the South Venice Lighting District fell 10%, for another example. It went from 0.2531 mills to 0.2278 mills.
Conversely, the Pinecraft Lighting District — in the predominantly Amish and Mennonite community just east of the City of Sarasota limits, in the area of Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street — had a 0.82% millage increase, from 0.0611 mills to 0.0616 mills.