Sumter County expected to welcome 3,000 new residents next year

For the 12th consecutive year, Sumter County commissioners approved a budget with a property tax rate less than or equal to the rollback rate.

They adopted a $202-million budget Tuesday night for 2016-17 with a property tax rate of $5.59 per $1,000 assessed valuation. The budget is about 5.5 percent less than last year’s budget of $213.8 million.

The tax rate is slightly less than the rollback rate of $5.61. The rollback rate is the amount needed to collect the same revenue as the previous year despite higher property values.

“We have a very robust service level and a low tax rate,” said Commissioner Doug Gilpin. “A lot of this has to be (due to) our public-private partnerships.”

Growth and its positive impact on property values contributed to the county’s budgeting success. Total taxable value is almost $10 billion, nearly doubling in the past decade.

Sumter County is expected to add about 3,000 more residents each year until 2019, partly due to the Village of Fenney project several miles down County Road 468 from State Road 44. The current county population is 118,577.

Of the county’s 103 revenue sources for its general fund, about $55.5 million in property taxes will account for nearly half of the fund’s revenue.

General fund revenue will rise 7.52 percent to $116.7 million, but that increase is offset by decreases in the smaller special revenue, debt service, capital projects and internal services funds.

Capital projects include two public safety buildings near Pinellas Plaza and in Bushnell, an evidence and impound area for the sheriff’s office and a shooting sports venue at Lake Panasoffee.

A net of two positions will be added, bringing the total to 211 county employees, including 10 part-timers. The Sheriff’s Office will add three employees and the tax collector will add two. The elections supervisor and property appraiser will add one each. Two animal control officers and two mosquito control technicians also will be added. Jobs eliminated include two Sheriff’s Office cooks, a veteran’s service officer, a maintenance technician and a fire safety inspector.

County Administrator Bradley Arnold said adding the mosquito control technicians was prompted by the presence of the Zika virus in Florida and expansion of The Villages closer to Lake Okahumpka.

The new animal control officers will work with the Sumter County Humane Society to assist with pickup of stray animals and address a time gap where the officers have not been available.

A small business development center also will be established in conjunction with the University of Central Florida.

“This development center will be a resource for all businesses in Sumter County,” Arnold said.

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