The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners on Monday certified an aggregate millage rate of 3.5244 – expected to be the lowest in the state of Florida – for its proposed $457 million budget for Fiscal Year 2017.
This rate is 5.4% less than last year’s rate, resulting in about $60 less in property taxes for a home with a taxable property value of $300,000. This rate also is .08% below rollback (meaning the rate is generating less total revenue for the County than last fiscal year).
The certified millage rate will go on the Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices that will be sent to property owners over the summer. The final part of the process occurs in September, with the first public hearing Sept. 6 in Key Largo (to adopt a tentative millage rate and budget); a special budget meeting Sept. 8 in Marathon for BOCC discussion; and a final public hearing Sept. 12 in Key West (to adopt the final millage rate and budget). The millage rate cannot go up after these meetings, but it can go down.
During Monday’s special budget meeting held at the Harvey Government Center in Key West, Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers instructed County staff to look for any cuts to the proposed budget.
“I just want to make sure that we are continuing to apply the kind of fiscal discipline today that we’ve applied during the recession, the downturn in the economy,” she said. “We, as an organization, should continue to look for efficiencies and savings.”
Commissioner Danny Kolhage agreed, saying: “Sometimes we have a mentality that just because we are at rollback, that we can sort of gloss over [the budget]. We still have the responsibility that even though we are at rollback or a little below, to very carefully scrutinize this and look at areas we can be more efficient and as cost effective as we can without it too negatively affecting our service.”
In the proposed budget, Monroe County’s general government expenses (administrative costs) make up only 12.72 percent. This is the fourth lowest of the 67 counties in the state. Only Bay, Franklin and Baker counties have a lower percentage.
“We have worked hard over the past few years to streamline our operation to both cut costs and improve efficiency,” Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said. “We eliminated eight senior executive positions and gave our department heads more responsibility. This has worked well.”
Gastesi said Monroe County also has a fun battle with Okaloosa County on which county produces the lowest aggregate millage rate. “I think we’ve nipped them this year,” Gastesi said. “Their proposed rate is 3.5744. If it stays this way, we would have the lowest millage rate in the state for the second time in the past nine years.”
The 673-page proposed budget, which includes $133 million for Capital and $324 million for Operating, is available on the County website: http://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/2838. This includes $73.5 million for the Constitutional Offices (Sheriff, Clerk of Courts, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections and Judicial).
Property taxes generate about $80 .1 million (18 percent) of the proposed budget.
The Board of County Commissioners-portion of the proposed budget incorporates:
- an increased infrastructure budget of $560,000 for building and parks maintenance, an increased $194,000;
- Increased assistance to low income families by the Monroe County Housing Authority of $194,000
- Increased funding for the Sustainability Road and Green Keys Projects of $547,000
- Increased 10 percent funding for community-based organizations for the Human Services Advisory Board, including Arts Council and Historic Florida Keys Foundation. (Commissioner Sylvia Murphy requested increasing HSAB funding by another $72,000 to $2 million).
- Implementation for Toll-by-Plate for Card Sound Bridge at $1.75 million
- New minimum wage of $15/hour for 93 positions that now fall below that level ($260,000)
- Year 4 implementation of employee performance-based review program. It includes .7 percent cost-of-living adjustment and 3.3 percent performance-based merit raises.
The proposed budget reflects a continuing shift toward longer term financial planning, which complements the multi-year policy strategies we have begun to put into place across County departments. They include: the Monroe County 2030 Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code, the Monroe County Sustainability Action Plan and the Monroe County Canal Water Restoration Master Plan.
The FY 2017 Capital Budget of $133M – which includes $33 million for wastewater-related infrastructure, $24 million for roads and bridges, $3.9 million for parks and beaches and $5 million for the Marathon Library Complex – is part of the County’s 5-Year Capital Plan of $328 million. This long-term capital plan protects and enhances the safety and quality of life of our citizens, with a significant investment in the maintenance, repair and improvement of the County’s capital assets, public safety and physical environment, namely: wastewater-related infrastructure, roads, bridges, canals, land acquisition, parks and beaches, fire stations and fire trucks, a new jail and a new courthouse.
Major progress continues on significant projects, including the County’s wastewater treatment infrastructure, the canal restoration demonstration projects and a more aggressive land acquisition program for conservation and the retirement of development rights for properties that could pose a potential financial liability to the County.