SARASOTA COUNTY –– While they’re not about to raise the millage rate, Sarasota County commissioners do find themselves dealing with a ravaged economy as they engage in their annual budget workshops this week.
County Administrator Jonathan Lewis will present commissioners with a proposed $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2021, essentially the same as last year, when commissioners gather to hear from various department heads and other elected officials on Wednesday and Thursday.
The proposal does include a slight increase in the overall millage from 3.43 mills to 3.46 mills, but that is tied to the Legacy Trail project for which voters approved the increase in millage in 2018. Otherwise, there has been no increase in the millage rate in over a decade.
As he told commissioners previously, Lewis has cut $5 million in expenditures to make up for anticipated revenue shortfalls and deferred or delayed several capital improvement projects which are dependent upon the penny sales tax, and gas taxes, two major revenue sources that have steeply declined due to the economic shutdown.
The increase in the millage rate means that the owner of a home valued at $100,000 after exemptions will pay $346 in property taxes to the county in addition to taxes to the school board and other taxing entities including the county’s municipalities.
Even without the voter-approved increase, property owners will likely see an increase in their taxes anyway due to an overall increase in property values in the county.
Unlike past years when these discussions occurred in the third floor Think Tank, the meeting this year will take place in commission chambers as county staff continues to promote social distancing amid the ongoing pandemic.
Commissioners will conduct the budget workshops on Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. both days in commission chambers at the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.
Anyone planning to attend the workshops in person will be screened for the COVID-19 virus before being allowed to enter the building. Seating inside commission chambers is also limited due to social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of the virus, and commissioners are encouraging people to submit public comments via a site the county has created at www.scgov.net/publicinput.