County commission sets property tax rate for next year


Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 11:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 11:59 p.m.

County commissioners voted Thursday to change the property tax rates for the next fiscal year — lowering them from the tentative levels approved in July.

For the county's general fund, commissioners approved a "revenue stabilization rate" — dubbed as such because it is projected to generate nearly the exact amount of money as the current fiscal year's rate.

Property tax revenues for the general fund are projected to be approximately $95.66 million.



The stabilization rate of 8.6299 mills is an approximately 3 percent increase over the current year's general fund rate. The decline in taxable property values is also approximately 3 percent, which has the increased tax rate bringing in the same amount of revenue.

One mill equals one dollar of tax for every $1,000 of taxable property value.

In July, commissioners voted 3-2, with Susan Baird and Lee Pinkoson in dissent, for a tentative general fund property tax rate of 8.77 mills, which would have generated close to $1.6 million in additional revenues.

Baird and Pinkoson were also in dissent Thursday. They sought to maintain the current general fund property tax rate and have not supported an approved 2 percent raise for employees that would partially offset the 3 percent contributions from their salaries that employees in the state retirement system now have to make to their pensions.

In unanimous votes Thursday, commissioners voted to maintain the current fiscal year's property tax rates for the three municipal services taxing units, which fund general services in unincorporated Alachua County, law enforcement and fire services.

In July, commissioners in a 3-2 vote had tentatively approved tax rate increases for each MSTU with the expectation they would later be lowered.

Maintaining the current property tax rate is projected to result in decreased revenues for each MSTU: $65,359 less for general services, $178,309 less for law enforcement and $214,686 less for fire service.

The property tax rates approved combined to 12.0524 mills, which represents an approximately 2.1 percent increase over the current fiscal year's combined millage rates of 11.7988 mills.

Combined, the projected property tax revenues for fiscal year 2011-12 are approximately $112.17 million, which is some $460,000 less than the current fiscal year's combined projected property tax revenues of $112.63 million.

The first public hearing on the budget is Sept. 13, and commissioners discussed the possibility of another slight reduction in the general fund property tax rate at that time.

Sheriff's budget

Based on Thursday's discussions, the Sheriff's Office will maintain the current year's budget of approximately $65 million in fiscal year 2011-12. Sheriff Sadie Darnell had sought a $2 million increase for 46 new positions at the jail.

Commissioners Rodney Long and Paula DeLaney did support some increase in funding for the agency to go toward those positions. Commissioner Mike Byerly wanted to maintain the current year's budget. Baird wanted to cut further from departments under the County Commission to free up money for Darnell's request.

Pinkoson said if commissioners had not decided to put the savings realized from a reduction in its required contributions to employee pensions toward pay raises, there would have been money available for additional jail employees without a property tax increase.

As with many meetings over the last year, there were some testy exchanges between Darnell and Byerly.

Darnell said she believed there would be money available for the jail employees if commissioners cut from the "bloated" areas of their departments' budgets.

Byerly said to increase funding for the jail, Darnell should cut from the "bloated" area of her agency's budget. Given a reduction in calls for service, crime rates and annexations into Gainesville, he said he believed that was the agency's patrol budget.

Also Thursday, commissioners voted 3-2, with Pinkoson and Baird in dissent, not to eliminate the position of deputy county manager from the budget. That position will be vacant starting Oct. 1 after longtime Deputy Manager Richelle Sucara retires.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com.

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