“I am proposing a tenth of a mill rollback of the property tax rates to be shared evenly between the General Fund and the Sheriff’s Department,” said Chairman Wayne Dukes at the Aug. 22, 2017 regularly scheduled County Commission meeting.
He said this would be just under $800,000.
Dukes cited the Sheriff’s Office return of funds during the past three years: $1.3 million, $1.3 million and $800,000. “So if we do that, he won’t have to turn back so much,” said Dukes.
The millage rate for FY 2017 is 6.9912. Reducing it by one tenth of a mill will bring it to 6.8912. To be clear, there will still be a tax increase as property values have increased significantly. If there is no change in the millage rate, the county would be collecting $3.7 million more in taxes over FY 2017. With the one tenth of a mill reduction, the county would be collecting around $3 million more than FY 2017.
County staff offered three methodologies to reduce the millage by one tenth of a mill:
“1. Reduce the Sheriff’s and the Board’s proposed appropriations from the General Fund by $396,805.00 each; or,
“2. Ask the County’s constitutional officers to reduce their proposed budgets, while keeping in mind that OMB will be unable to reduce the proposed millage rates if the constitutional officers decline the request; or,
“3. Make an appropriation from the accrued revenue generated by the housing of federal prisoners in the Hernando County Jail in order to correspondingly reduce the appropriation from the General Fund for the maintenance and operation of the Jail.”
Commissioner Holcomb was not in favor of taking $400,000 out of the Sheriff’s Office appropriations. He mentioned that returned monies from Constitutional Officers would be a better source for allowing a tax cut. He said that he loves tax cuts, but doesn’t wish to jeopardize law enforcement.
Commissioner Nicholson was initially in favor of splitting the Board and Sheriff’s Office appropriations stating, “If we ask him to cut his budget by $400,000, he’ll end up giving us back between $400,000 and $600,000… It’s not going to cut what he’s able to do. He doesn’t have to give it back to us if he spends it obviously.”
Commissioner Allocco asked where the county would be cutting the money from.
Quoting an email from Pam Lee with information gathered from the Property Appraiser’s Office, the average taxable value per residence in Hernando County is $68,136.00. Thus one tenth of a mill is $6.81. “We want to go through all this to save the taxpay $.57 per month?” asked Allocco.
Allocco reminded the Board that with the Homestead Exemption coming up, “one of the people up here on the dias right now said that we’re probably going to have to raise taxes… If this was significant I’d be all for it, but I can’t justify ‘I just saved you $6.50 and cut these services- aren’t you proud?’”
Commissioner Champion asked Ms. Lee, “What is the increased revenue overall from the tax increase we have from property value going up total?”
She said that it went up to $3.7 million. “So that’s a $3.7 million increase on the residents,” said Champion.
“It’s not about the Sheriff. It’s about doing the right thing as people that are in government… Why are we talking about only the Sheriff… It shouldn’t be about one entity it should be about the whole county doing the right thing, ” he continued.
Lee stated that one tenth of one mill would reduce the county’s revenue by $793,609.00. The reserve reduction would be $123,897.00. So in essence the total you would cut if you split it is $669,712 which would be around $300,000 per side.
Ms. Lee said she did send a list with suggestions on where to cut, but she would need direction from the board.
Holcomb pointed out that the list contains cuts to programs impacting AmSkills, Small Business Development Center, County Fair and Chinsegut. He didn’t want to jeopardize law enforcement or these community programs.
Champion favored the third option- appropriating the $1.1 million from the Federal Inmate House program with a corresponding reduction of the general fund for allocations designated for the operation and maintenance of the jail. That way the tenth of a mill can be taken out and they can leave the budget as it is.
Champion also stated, “Taxes are going up $3.7 million. We’re not rolling back the rate… Let’s not say we’re not raising taxes ‘cause we are.”
Nicholson did not wish to negatively impact funding for the community programs so he also felt it would be better to use the county’s portion of the Federal Inmate Housing dollars. Addressing Ms. Lee he said, “You’ve done a great job at getting the budget balanced. I want to leave it that way.”
Allocco pointed out that the Economic Development fund is set to run out pretty soon. Lee stated that there is a little over $900,000 sitting in that fund. She expects the fund to dry up mid 2019, if it is not replenished.
Champion suggested replenishing the Economic Development fund with what is left of the $1.1 million after the tenth of a mill reduction.
Ultimately there was agreement from the board for Lee to adjust the budget in order to allow for a millage rate reduction of one tenth of a mill through utilizing the $1.1 million in Federal Inmate Housing dollars. This would bring the millage rate from 6.9912 to 6.8912.
Echoing remarks from Allocco, Nicholson said, “Looking forward if the additional Homestead Exemption goes through, we’re looking at a $3 million deficit. That’s coming down the line, so we need to remember that.”