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To help close a projected $4.65 million budget gap, the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners agreed by consensus Monday, July 9, to raise property millage about .4, or $.40 per $1,000 of taxable property value above the roll-back rate.
A millage increase was one of several multi-faceted options presented to the board Monday by County Administrator Craig Coffey, who also showcased other possibilities, like additionally reducing personnel, spending reserves and further delaying purchases of emergency equipment.
To generate the same amount of revenue in the coming fiscal year as last, he explained, millage will need to be raised from 6.2232 to 6.6843, an increase that can be approved by simple majority vote.
“Some people will realize that (increase), some won’t,” he said. “There will be winners and losers, depending on (property) valuation.”
Owners of homes assessed at $150,000 would see an annual tax increase of about $40, he added. Homes assessed at $200,000 would see a change of about $60.
Still, without further raising taxes or drastically reducing services, the County Commission will enter next year’s budget season with a similar shortfall at its bottom line. Under the tentatively approved plan, Coffey projects the general fund will show a $2.8 million gap at the start of next fiscal year, assuming no changes, like further drops in property value or spikes in gas prices.
Also included in the commission’s chosen budget plan is $150,000 cut from personnel and “other adjustments,” $500,000 for partial jail design and $260,000 for employee pay increases — although that item was not formally agreed upon.
“Under some of these options, we’re going to have, what I would consider, a significant millage increase,” Commissioner Alan Peterson said. “I don’t think this is the time to do any kind of (pay) adjustment. The timing is just terrible.”
But for Coffey, who noted the additional cost of hiring and training new employees, the bumps are more a means of long-term savings.
“At some point, all of these other jurisdictions have given (salary) increases,” he said. “They found a way.”
For the county’s 562 employees who earn a salary under $60,000 annually, he added, a “$500 one-time cost-of-living adjustment” would come out to about 1.5% of their total pay. For the other 87 employees who make more than $60,000, the increase equals about .5% or less.
But the board opted out of giving those making more than $60,000 any kind of pay bump.
The commission also agreed to allocate $225,000 to replace an old fire truck, although Peterson felt that was an unnecessary expenditure, as well.
According to Fire Rescue Chief Don Petito, though, the 17-year-old, 123,000-mile diesel truck has become obsolete.
“It doesn’t meet any of the (National Fire Protection Association) standards,” he said. “It no longer meets any of the requirements … and I’m not ready to put a (firefighter) in a truck that doesn’t meet requirements.”
The rest of the board agreed, overruling Peterson’s objection.
At the commission’s next regular meeting, Monday, July 16, Coffey will include a tentative and draft millage item on the agenda for first approval.
“I think we’re there,” Commission Chairwoman Barbara Revels said. “We just have to continue fine-reducing anything.”
By law, the commission could raise Flagler’s millage up to a maximum of 9.1361 without a supermajority vote. With a current rate of 6.22, though, Flagler currently has the 54th lowest millage in all of Florida’s 67 counties.
Final millage will be set in September.
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