Your county taxes are going up

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

The Jefferson County Commission's first public hearing on the budget and millage rate last week was a nonevent, attracting only one citizen. Paul Henry, who can rightly be called a staple at commission meetings, steadfastly as he attends them.
Which left in the audience Sheriff Mac McNeill, this reporter and Property Appraiser Angela Gray.
A far cry from past years when citizens regularly attended such
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affairs in significant numbers and not infrequently protested the proposed taxes.
Judging from the scant attendance on Thursday evening, Sept. 12, it appears that citizens either are satisfied with, or resigned to, the officials' decisions, given that the proposed millage rate represents only a slight increase over the rolled-back rate, or the rate that would produce the same revenue in property taxes as in the current fiscal year.
It's to say that the proposed 7.9500 mills, which is the same as the current year's, is expected to generate $4,869,305 in property taxes in the 2019/20 fiscal year, or $119,395 more than it produced in the current fiscal year. The reason that the millage rate is producing more is that property values have risen, so that the same rate brings in more money. Bottom line, property owners will pay slightly higher taxes.
Clerk of Court Kirk Reams, who presented the numbers to the commissioners, observed that it had been a relatively easy budget to formulate, compared with past years. He also noted that the budget had the highest contingency or reserve in about 12 years.
The budget, as tentatively approved, is for $30,637,004, its large size attributed to the several grants that the county is scheduled to receive.
The budget worksheet shows that the county expects to receive $22,933,608 in revenue from various sources, plus $4,598,252 in transfers-in and $4,243,417 in cash on hand. Which numbers – minus the five percent cash reserve that it is required to maintain by law – results in the $30,637,004.
The budgeted expenses, meanwhile, amount to $25,081,358, plus $4,598,252 in transfers-out and $957,394 for road bond/loan repayments, which together total $30,637,004 – i.e., producing a balanced budget.
The anticipated revenues include $900,00 from housing assistance, $1,402,951 from fines and forfeitures, $900,648 from the fire assessment and $1,680,447 from the landfill assessment.
Other anticipated revenues, based on estimates issued by the state in July, include $595,247 from the Amendment 1 offset (compensation for lost tax revenue caused by the additional homestead exemption and portability); $255,506 from the Amendment 4 offset (compensation for lost tax revenue caused by land that is put in conservation easements); $704,588 from the fiscally constrained funding; $616,713 from state revenue sharing; $1,379,252 from the local government half-cent sales tax; and $1,067,245 from sales tax revenue.
All told, the latter revenue sources are expected to bring in $4,817,056, which is $347,629 less than was these sources were projected to produce last year.
On the expenditure side of the ledger, in terms of county operations, all but six are showing increases. The six showing budgetary reductions are the Road Department, down $50,000; county's medical obligations, down $1,051, from $407,416 last year to $406,365 in the coming year; County Coordinator office, down $11,093, from $267,400 to $256,307; Emergency Medical Service, down $53,612; contributions to non-government organizations, down $3,500, from $66,000 to $62,500; and building inspections, down $18,282, from $40,241 to $21,959.
Departments showing increases for the coming year are: Sheriff, up $99,772, from $4,091,402 in the current year to $4,191,174 in the coming year; county administration, up $5,600, from $750,500, to $756,100; Property Appraiser, up $52,208, from $599,831 to $652,039; Extension Services Office, up $15,907, from $287,383 to $303,290; Supervisor of Elections, up $19,786, from $305,174 to $324,960; Clerk of Court, up $1,100, from $189,000 to $200,000; Library Services, up $11,654, from $244,309 to $255,963; County Commission salaries and benefits, up $11,478, from $269,422 to $280,900; County Attorney, up $1,835, from $28,415 to $30,250; Parks and Recreation, up $3,087, from $153,206 to $156,293; Fire Department, up $21,358 from the general fund, in addition to the fire assessment revenue; Planning Department, up $271, from $143,230 to $143,501; Code Enforcement, up $1,042, from $41,097 to 42,139; and law enforcement vehicles, up $35,000, from $25,000, to $60,000.
The following offices remained at the same level of funding as the current year: administrative building overhead, $317,318; debt service obligation, $299,325; Veteran's Affairs, $25,640; Office of State Courts Administrator, $52,972; mosquito control, $35,000; Florida Board of Forestry, $24,297; State Attorney Office, $34,300; and Public Defender Office, $22,730.
The contingency fund increased by $190,715, from the current year's $232,057 to $422,772.
The final hearing on the budget and millage rate is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the courthouse annex, 435 Walnut Street.