Flagler County commissioners hope to cut the property tax rate by at least by a symbolic amount — the equivalent of $20 on the tax bill of a house with a taxable value of $200,000 — and grant the sheriff funding for the majority, though not all, of the 15 additional deputies he'd like to hire.
"I’m not voting for flat millage. If you’re not going to cut it this year, it’s never going to happen."
— ANDY DANCE, county commissioner
The county's property tax is currently 8.2547 mills, or $8.2547 per $1,000 of taxable value.
Three commissioners are interested in lowering it by at least a tenth of a mill, since a 9% increase in property values will mean that a tenth-of-a-mill reduction would still bring in an estimated $5.9 million more in taxes in the coming year than were generated in the current fiscal year.
"If we can’t reduce the millage rate even a tenth of a point ... then I really worry about when we will ever be able to do that," Commissioner David Sullivan said.
But that reduction would also require the county administration to forgo planned infrastructure projects and the hoped-for addition of two new staff positions.
Commissioners Greg Hansen and Joe Mullins weren't convinced of the wisdom of trimming back county services to save residents just $20 over what they would have paid on their tax bills if the rate stayed flat.
The commission must finalize its budget and set the property tax rate in September.
The proposal commissioners converged around at a budget workshop Aug. 16 was more moderate than one they'd considered weeks prior, when Commission Chairman Donald O'Brien had suggested that the county fully fund all requests from its constitutional officers, such as the sheriff, while still cutting back the tax rate — a proposal that would have likely required trimming back county services that fall under the County Commission's aegis, such as utilities and fire rescue.
That proposal drew warnings from the county administration: The county, said interim county administrator Heidi Petito, is in the second phase of recovering from the recession, trying to handle deferred maintenance and build up its reserves. It had planned to trim back the millage rate next year, but not this coming year.
But if the county can't manage to cut back its property tax rate in a year with such a dramatic increase in property values, commissioners Sullivan and Andy Dance said, when would it ever be able to do so?
"If you’re looking for consensus, I’m not voting for flat millage," Dance said. "If you’re not going to cut it this year, it’s never going to happen."
The county's finance department proposed funding the sheriff's requested for a mobile command station using $400,000 from reserves.