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County opts for rollback millage

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Levy County Commission has set the tentative property tax millage rate at 8.3307 for the coming year, but it could back off that number by Sept. 30 when the final budget is adopted.

The unanimous decision came in a Tuesday morning meeting where the commission also received three proposals from engineering firms interested in doing work under the RESTORE Act fnding. 

The commission is considering a proposed general fund budget — supported by the property tax revenue — of $23,753,030 for the year beginning Oct. 1. But the total proposed budget including grants and other sources of revenue is $62.730,153.

That is down from the 2007-2008 budget years when the budget was about $70 million. The commission has spent the past five years whittling the expenses and not replacing many of the county employees who retired or left. 

Commissioner Michael Joyner of Morriston (R-District 3), in making the motion to go with the 8.3307 millage, said, "We can't go on milking the cow and not feeding it." His motion was seconded by Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5).

The 8.3307 is expected to raise $13,020,020 for the general revenue fund. It is the rollback millage — designed to allow the commission to recoup the same amount of money despite dropping property values. 

The current millage is 8.01 and it generated $12,947,479 this year, but with decreased property values in 2013, the millage was estimated to raise $12,518,799 in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. 

The property tax millage is 8.01 mills. A mill is equivalent to $1 for every $1,000 of property value, so a $100,000 assessment on a home would cost $801. In Levy County, over 40 percent of residential properties do not pay any property taxes as homestead exemptions reduce the liability to $0, according to figures provided by the Levy County Property Appraisers Office last year.

Last year, the commission did not go with a rollback millage — a rate that increases the millage when property values drop to provide the same amount of revenue year to year — because it shifted the burden for funding county fire and emergency medical services to assessments. Under that plan every property owner pays for fire and EMS service, even when they do not pay property tax. 

 One reason the county is seeking additional millage this year is that the employees, who had not received a pay increase for five years received a 3 percent pay increase and the state has increased the county's payments to the retirement system by 1.77 percent and imposed even bigger increases on high-risk workers.