Leon County Balances Funding Community Priorities and Protecting
Public Health All Without Increasing Millage Rate
In its continuous efforts to deliberately focus on the most fiscally responsible budget possible that best safeguards public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Leon County Board of County Commissioners, in a 7-0 vote today, balanced the County’s tentative budget without raising the millage rate for the ninth year in a row. The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget of $281.9 million is a 2.74% percent increase from last year’s budget.
“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. “Balancing a budget is always hard work, especially during these unprecedented times. To that end, the 2021 fiscal year budget reflects the County’s ongoing commitment to protecting public health and providing high-quality services that are needed now more than ever.”
During the workshop, 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.
Like the larger economic picture, the effects of the pandemic on Leon County finances have been without precedent. 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). All that said, the Board balanced this year's tentative budget without an offsetting increase in any taxes or fees, leaving the millage rate at the current 8.3144 mills. This is possible due to the County’s strong financial stewardship, paying down of debt, commitment to budget constraint, sufficient reserves and multi-year fiscal planning prior to the pandemic.
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;
- Decline in general revenues by $7.4 million, offset by an increase in property tax collections of $9.204 million using a constant millage rate;
- Reduction in County operating budgets of $1.87 million while maintaining high-quality services and service delivery.
“With the continued leadership of the Board, the dedication of our talented employees and the active engagement of citizens and partners, Leon County government is as well positioned as any organization to continue to meet the current and foreseeable challenges and opportunities facing our organization and community,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “The County’s strong financial foundation was established over many previous budget cycles with budget discipline, sound financial planning and an organization-wide focus on innovation, cost avoidance and efficiency. It bears repeating that these actions have provided the necessary resources to continue maintaining the County as a financially viable organization with the ability to withstand the COVID-19 pandemic.”
When compared to other like-sized counties in Florida, Leon County continues to maintain the lowest net budget, the lowest net budget per resident, and the second-to-lowest number of employees per capita.
Based on the results of today’s workshop, the Board will establish the tentative countywide millage and Emergency Medical Services Municipal Services Taxing Unit rates at the September 15, 2020 meeting.
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.
To inform the community of the upcoming budget hearings, Leon County will continue its public information and community outreach efforts, utilization of the County’s website, government access television channel (Comcast Channel 16 / CenturyLink), Roku streaming channel and social media outlets.
For detailed information on Tuesday’s budget workshop, please visit the Leon County website at www.LeonCountyFL.gov/OMB/, call the Leon County Office of Financial Stewardship / Office of Management & Budget at (850) 606-5100 or contact Leon County Community and Media Relations at (850) 606-5300 / CMR@LeonCountyFL.gov .