Leon County Balances Funding Community Priorities
Without Increasing Millage Rate
In its continued effort to deliberately focus on the most fiscally responsible budget possible, 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 seventh year in a row. The proposed Fiscal Year 2019 budget of $262.5 million is a 3.46 percent increase from last year’s budget.
The Board accomplished this year’s tentative balanced budget while leaving the millage rate at the current 8.3144 mills. The County reduced its use of reserves, continued funding infrastructure projects, and supporting quality service levels.
After very productive discussion and debate, the Board approved a tentative budget for the 2018/2019 fiscal year.
“I am proud of the Board’s hard work today at the budget workshop,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “ "While property values continue to slowly rise in our recovering economy, the County remains committed to serving our citizens while avoiding new expenses. This balanced budget demonstrates that commitment.”
The preliminary budget was developed in a slowly improving economy, where growth in property tax revenues and state sales tax revenues are beginning to cover the inflationary costs of government expenses without having to reduce program services. Some actions taken to balance the budget include:
- No change in either the Countywide Millage Rate of 8.3144 mills or the 0.5 EMS MSTU with an increase in property values of 5.64% Countywide;
- Reducing the use of the general fund balance by 20% to $2.0 million, which is less than the $5.0 million used at the height of the recession;
- Supported the Leon County Sheriff's Office by funding the second year of a three-year staffing plan for enhanced law enforcement efforts in the community, which in Fiscal Year 2019 includes four new patrol deputies, four new correctional officers, one mechanic, and one record technician;
- Added two County positions, including a Water Quality Engineer to assist with the implementation of more than $17 million in Primary Spring Protection Area septic-to-sewer projects with $40 million more planned over the next six years, and a Park Attendant for the last two months of the fiscal year to assist with additional amenities and ongoing maintenance of Apalachee Regional Park with the upcoming five-year master plan as well as large cross-country events including the 2021 NCAA Cross Country tournament;
- In addition to direct cost savings, a 24% reduction to Emergency Medical Transport fees saving customers $800,000 annually on ambulance service;
- Adopted the Miccosukee Sense of Place Plan and $1.0 million multi-year funding strategy;
- Realizing $1.27 million in cost avoidance and budget reductions through employee innovations, competitive procurements, innovative approaches to facility capital maintenance, and leveraging financial markets to reduce debt costs; and
- Maintaining level funding for Primary Healthcare and Community Human Services Partnerships programs.
Leon County’s long-term planning considers the Fiscal Year 2020 proposed constitutional amendment that provides an additional $25,000 homestead exemption, reducing property tax collection by $7.2 million annually and disrupting the community’s local economic recovery. This long-term planning includes the County’s successfully negotiated withdrawal from the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency, providing long-term financial savings to the County of $1.0 million which will be set aside in a reserve account to offset the potential shortfall if the homestead referendum passes.
Through years of economic recession, despite an era of unfunded mandates and cost shifts, as well as increased demands and costs, Leon County has positioned itself to be fiscally viable and responsible to its citizenry.
“Through the County Commission’s responsible fiscal stewardship, Leon County continues to plan, economize, and exercise enormous budget constraint,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “Over the past several budget cycles, budget discipline, sound financial planning and an organization-wide focus on innovation, cost avoidance and efficiency has positioned the County for long-term fiscal stability. While the national, state and local economies continue to improve, Leon County continues to approach its annual budget process by identifying opportunities to constrain budgetary growth, while ensuring the County’s limited resources continue to be aligned with the highest priorities of the Board."
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 their July 10, 2018 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 4, at 6 p.m. in the Commission Chambers on the fifth floor of the Leon County Courthouse, located at 301 S. Monroe St.
The second public hearing will be at the same location on Monday, September 24, 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 to implement public information and community outreach via media partner interaction, utilization of the County’s website, government access television channel (Comcast Channel 16 / CenturyLink) and social media outlets.
For more information, contact the Leon County Office of Financial Stewardship / Office of Management & Budget at (850) 606- 5100 or Leon County Community and Media Relations at (850) 606-5300 / cmr@LeonCountyFL.gov .
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