The Leon County Board of County Commissioners, in a 7-0 vote on July 14th, balanced the County’s tentative budget without raising the current millage rate. The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $281.9 million is a 2.74% percent increase from last year’s budget.
A decline in general revenues by $7.4 million was offset by an increase in property tax collections of $9.204 million due to an increase in property values.
“I am proud of the Board’s deliberate, fiscally responsible decisions since the Great Recession to put our County in a position to approve a balanced budget during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge.
The Board also approved the Leon CARES expenditure plan to distribute up to $51.2 million in CARES Act funds to meet critical community needs related to COVID-19. Launching August 2020, Leon CARES provides funding for essential public health and safety expenditures related to COVID-19 including enhanced testing and contact tracing, direct assistance to individuals experiencing financial hardship, a variety of human service needs, critical economic relief to the local business community, and direct COVID-related costs incurred by the County, Constitutional and Judicial Offices, and the City of Tallahassee.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Leon County finances have been substantial. Forecasted County revenues including sales, gas, and tourism taxes show Leon County losing a combined $17 million in FY 2020 ($6.9 million) and FY 2021 ($10.1 million).
The preliminary budget addresses next year’s projected revenue shortfall of $10.1 million by taking the following actions:
- No increase in the Countywide or EMS property tax rate, solid waste and fire non-ad valorem assessments;
- Decrease the general revenue transfer in support of the capital improvement program from $7.4 million to $5.1 million;
- Increase in the use of fund balance from $1.5 to $3.0 million;
- Reduction in debt service payments of $4.17 million next fiscal year as the County continues to pay off long term debt.
- No new general revenue positions being added to Leon County Government and no layoffs or furloughs of existing employees;
- New costs savings and avoidances of $11.0 million, bringing the total to $44.9 million since FY 2013;
- Reduction in County operating budgets of $1.87 million while maintaining high-quality services and service delivery.
Citizens will have the opportunity to provide input on the budget before it is finalized in September. The first public hearing will be on Tuesday, September 15, at 6 p.m.
The second public hearing will be at the same location on Tuesday, September 29, at 6 p.m., at which time the Board is scheduled to adopt the final budget and millage rates.
A decline in revenue was offset by an increase in property tax collections of $9.204 million due to an increase in property values. “I am proud of the Board’s deliberate, fiscally responsible decisions since the Great Recession to put our County in a position to approve a balanced budget during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Bryan Desloge.
Desloge could not be more wrong with this tired tactic meant to mislead taxpayers. What he wants people to hear is “We’re not taking more of your money, and we’re not increasing the property tax rate.” The truth is that in collecting more property taxes due to increased property values is a tax increase.
This is classic polispeak and a move that couldn’t come at a more difficult time due to COVID. While residents are losing jobs, income, and their small business, the County chooses to increase taxes and the budget. And don’t forget the new Children’s Services Council will be funded by a new property tax increase that could generate an additional $8 million.
If the Board was truly “fiscally responsible,” it would stop robbing homeowners and businesses every year. It would exercise some constraint by reducing the millage rate to reflect the $9M increase and find additional cost savings and reductions reflective of a true tax reduction. And rather than increasing property taxes to fund the CSC (which will overwhelmingly be approved by voters), redirect existing funds in its place.
It’s time for local government to hold the line and control spending. Increasing budgets and taxes every year is nothing for the Board to proud of.
So… check me on my math here… but… we lost $7.4 million in general revenue, but gained $9.204 million in property tax revenue… AND… reduced the County operating budgets by $1.87 million. That equates to approximately $3.5+ million swing into the positive side of the ledger. This indicates that there wasn’t even a need to “consider” raising the mileage rate. To top it all off… none of the local politicians lost a bit of salary, health insurance, or benefits during the lockdowns they imposed on the rest of us.
Whoooo… these cats have it rough.
OK, you were NOT supposed to delve that deep into their Numbers. You just took a lot of wind out of their Sails instead of praising them like they were hoping. Now you go to your room and think about what you did.
September 15 seems to me like a good time to show up and fight for funding to completely be directed to folks 6 years of age and under including the multiple numbers of murdered kids in vitro. What say you? May God and your conscience direct you in your response.