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County sets property tax at 8.01 mills

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By Lou Elliott Jones

 

The Levy County Commission — absent one member due to sickness — unanimously approved a property tax of 8.01 mills on Monday evening and a budget of $61,235,783 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

The final millage is the result of a compromise by the commission which voted last week to raise property assessments for fire and emergency medical services to $90 and $119, respectively, to cover the cost of operations and to end using property taxes to cover those operations.  

The 8.01 mills is  expected to bring in $12,947,479 for the general fund next year.

The decisions on taxes and services assessments means every property owner in the county will be contributing to fire and EMS services. By using property taxes to cover operational costs, at least 15 percent of county homeowners were not contributing to the service as exemptions reduced their tax bill to zero. As many as 55 percent of the county's homeowners pay $200 or less in property taxes due to a myriad of exemptions.

Commissioner Marsha Drew of Yankeetown (R-District 3) was absent due to medical reasons, said County Coordinator Fred Moody.

The public hearing on the millage opened with civic activist Renate Cannon asking the commission to hold the line on taxes. “For me it is a tax increase. I ask that you respect my request that you decrease the millage.”

Dana Sheffield of Fanning Springs said, “I would appreciate it if you would show us the love.” 

Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2), who has a degree in agricultural economics, spent much of his time talking about the arithmetic of the commission's decisions on homeowners.

Johnson said in the past year property values have gone down by 6.24 percent resulting in a loss of revenue if the county stayed with the current 7.8114 millage. The rollback millage of 8.5759, which the county tentatively adopted in July, would bring in the same amount of money next year that the county collected this year at 7.8114 mills. 

He said he looked at the effect on eight homeowners — including Cannon, whose assessment went up under the state's recapture rule. The rule allows property assessments to rise by a maximum of 3 percent or the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index, which ever is smaller for the year. He noted Cannon's taxes would go up by $46.58 this year. Other examples he cited was Chiefland Commissioner Teresa Barron, whose taxes would rise $57.48, his own at $1,549 and “Aunt Gwen” up by $149. “I guess there won't be a Christmas card from Aunt Gwen this year,” Johnson said. 

While Johnson and the other commissioners wanted to go lower than 8 mills on property taxes, they also noted that state law sets a minimum property tax to be levied to qualify for waivers of permits from state and regional agencies. The floor is above 8 mills.

Commission Chair Danny Stevens of Williston ( D-District 5) said when he worked for the City of Williston a state Department of Environmental Protection permit that would have cost $5,000 only cost the city $100 because it got a waiver. “That's the degree it can save for just one permit,” he said. 

The commissioners approved the 8.01 mills unanimously after Finance Clerk Sheila Rees said that would bring in 6.6 percent less revenue than this year's 7.8114 mills.