The proposed rate, 8.2547 mills, is an increase from the rollback rate but a reduction from the 2019 rate.
The Flagler County Commission in a meeting Sept. 5 approved the county’s 2020 tentative millage rate: 8.2547 mills, or $8.2547 per $1,000 of taxable value. The meeting was the first of two on the millage, special assessments and budget. The second and final vote will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19.
The millage rate is an increase of 4.41% from the rollback rate — the rate that would have brought in the same overall dollar amount of tax money as last year — of 7.9059 mills, Financial Services Director John Brower said, and includes 0.1250 mills in voter-approved environmentally sensitive land funding. But it is a reduction in the actual aggregate millage rate, which has been 8.7247 for fiscal year 2019.
Before the commission unanimously approved the millage rate and tentative budget, Commissioner David Sullivan noted how fortunate the county had been with Dorian.
“I would say that we were extremely lucky at this point after what could have happened with the hurricane that just passed, Dorian, given it was just a few miles off the coast,” he said. “If it had been what Matthew did, I think I’d be standing here saying we need to re-look at the budget, because if we had those kind of expenses we had for Matthew, we’d have to probably take a different look at where we have to go. So again, I think we’re extremely lucky that we can be here tonight and be able to go forward with this slight millage decrease.”
He also noted, before commissioners unanimously approved the county’s special assessment rolls, that it was special assessment money that had been used to add seawall protection in the Painters Hill area. That work, along with dune restoration work, helped protect the land during the storm.
“I think they’ve proved their worth in the last week,” he said.
One resident, Linda Burnett, told commissioners that she lives on the county's west side, near County Road 305, and feels that she and other residents of the area are paying with their tax dollars for services they're not actually getting.
"Our roads are dirt. Our swales ... have trees growing in them," she said. "There's no way for water to flow through them. We don’t get the services that we pay for in our taxes out there. ... I mean, the garbage [assessment], I don’t have a problem with; schools, I don’t have a problem with. Roads? Construction work on the swales, the ditches? We’re paying for something we don’t use, that we don’t get, OK? ... I mean, the school buses are running into the swales, into the ditches, the roads are so narrow. The mud comes up to my axles when it rains bad. I know we’re not going to get asphalt or whatever, but can you do something if we have to pay for it?"
Commissioner Greg Hansen said that Burnett's comment concerned him.
"I know we’re out there cleaning out those swales, and we bought that special equipment to do it, but we may have missed their street," he said. He suggested that Commissioner Joe Mullins, whose district includes the west side, look into the matter.
Mullins said that, as far as he's seen, the county hasn't been collecting for services on the west side and not providing them.
"But, if there's a service missing, then I’m going to make sure we’re getting it out there if we’re paying for it, and if we’re not, then we just need to discuss, like you said, there are some things that we don’t want to pay for out there," such as street lighting, he said. As to flooding, he said, "I’ve been all over that, trying to make sure that we get a program set to where we’re not reactive and we’re being proactive instead."
He added that he'd been satisfied with County Manger Jerry Cameron's approach, but welcomed communication from residents, in case there was an area that had been missed.