A tentative property tax rate of $6.24 per $1,000 assessed valuation in next year’s proposed budget wasn’t low enough for Sumter County commissioners.
They voted Tuesday night to slash the rate to $6.15 along with some spending reductions.
The new rate would be a 4.37 percent decrease from last year’s rate of $6.43 per $1,000 assessed valuation and below the rolled-back rate of $6.24. The rolled-back rate is the amount needed to collect the same revenue as the prior year excluding new construction.
Final approval of the county’s 2021-22 budget is expected after a second public hearing on Sept. 28. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Spending cuts to achieve the lower tax rate include cutting two of three proposed public information employees, eliminating a reserve fund and delaying acquisition of a street sweeper.
Due to the rate cut, Sumter County would collect an estimated $89.5 million in property taxes, up from $85.7 million during the current fiscal year. Property taxes are the largest of the county’s 76 revenue sources.
The $135 million general fund, also reduced by the rate cut, includes intergovernmental revenue, a communications services tax and local option taxes as well as property tax revenue.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the county has received about half of a $25 million allocation under the federal America Rescue Plan Act. The remainder is expected next summer. Use of the money is restricted to capital expenditures such as water, sewer and broadband.
Commissioner Doug Gilpin suggested cutting all three proposed public information employees to achieve a lower tax rate, but ultimately made the successful motion to eliminate two of them and reduce the rate to $6.15.
If the county can collect several million dollars owed by The Villages Community Development Districts, it could offset the lower tax rate, said Commissioner Gary Search.
“Based on the amount of money owed to the county, we can absorb that,” he said.
But Commissioner Craig Estep said he supported the higher rate of $6.24 because of expenses Sumter County may face such as buying ambulances. Estep’s motion to adopt the higher rate died for lack of a second.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Don Wiley, a supervisor with Community Development District 10, said cutting the tax rate to $6.24 on a $300,000 home would reduce the homeowner’s tax bill by about $1.
“When are we going to start attacking and reducing costs,” he said. “What was proposed by any of you to decrease costs, decrease expenditures?”
Commissioners also heard pleas from several Lake Panasoffkee residents to help with cleanup of the lake and its attached canals.