Residential and manufacturing growth helped Sumter County cut next year’s property tax rate by 20 cents to $5.34 per $1,000 assessed valuation in its 2018-19 fiscal year budget approved Tuesday night.
For 14 consecutive years, the county tax rate has been at or below the rolled-back rate, which is the rate needed to collect the same revenue as the previous year.
Spending will be $201.3 million, which is higher than last year’s adopted budget of $168 million, but lower than the amended budget of $225.1 million. Most of the difference is in the loan construction fund, which was zero in last year’s adopted budget, $30 million in the amended budget and $29.4 million in this year’s adopted budget.
Major budget amendments are passed in January after the end of the calendar year, said County Administrator Bradley Arnold.
The county’s total property valuation rose to nearly $12 billion this year due to residential growth, largely due to the Villages of Southern Oaks and manufacturing expansion. The county is adding about 3,000 new residents per year.
Manufacturing expansion includes a $30 million investment by Primus Pipe & Tube of Wildwood, an $8 million investment by Great Southern Wood of Bushnell and a $5.1 million addition by Mapei, a company that manufactures adhesives and sealants. Two other firms also are considering locations in Sumter County.
Due to increased activity, economic development costs will rise to $2.37 million from $598,331 last year.
Arnold said this year’s budget uses up most reserve funds, except for 5 percent that must be held in reserve by law.
“This is a tight budget,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin. “There are no frills. We’ve tightened our belts to invest in our future prosperity.”
Commissioner Garry Breeden said demand for services is increasing, which makes the budget process “a balancing act” to keep taxes down.
The county, which has 89 revenue sources, will collect $58.8 million in property taxes next year. Local sales taxes account for about $12 million.
Nineteen new positions will be added to the Sheriff’s Office, which will have the largest budget increase. The positions include eight school resource officers to comply with a state school safety act, six positions to reduce paperwork for deputies and two crime scene specialists.
The budget for The Villages Public Safety Department will rise to $14.4 million, a $3.5 million increase, due to staffing of a new fire station along Morse Boulevard in the Villages of Southern Oaks.
Capital project spending will be down 21.1 percent, or $13.4 million, to $50.1 million from this year’s amended budget. Projects include a new Wildwood fire station, another jail housing unit and a parking structure.
Major road improvements for next year, funded by state money and local gas tax revenue, include $5.6 million for two projects on Warm Springs Avenue (County Road 468) near the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks, $2.5 million to widen County Road 501 in the same area and $2.5 million to improve County Road 673 between U.S. 301 and Interstate 75.