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Sarasota Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2019 1 year ago

Sarasota County expects to hold the line on tax rate

Leaders haven't changed tax rate since 2013.
by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer

County Commissioners have yet to set the official millage for the 2020 fiscal year, though County Administrator Jon Lewis said the property tax rate will likely remain as it's been since 2013.

Sarasota County’s millage rate has remained at a steady 3.39 — only a slight increase from the 3.34 rate set in 2008. In 2000, the millage rate sat at approximately 4.58. Had that rate remained flat over the last 19 to 20 years, Lewis’ report said, taxpayers would have already paid an additional $827 million in taxes to the county.

Thus, the consistent 3.39 millage value has remained a source of pride for commissioners, particularly as they nearly voted to increase that rate by 0.1 for the 2018 fiscal year in an attempt to replenish the county’s emergency reserves.

“It’s important that all the commissions before us not only didn’t raise [the millage rate], they lowered it,” Commissioner Al Maio said. “It’s one thing to say we didn’t raise taxes … it’s something else to lower those rates.”

But a consistent millage rate does not necessarily equate to consistent tax bills for property owners. Sarasota County Financial Manager Kim Radtke reported a preliminary rise in countywide property values of 6.1% to $62.2 billion, closing in on the county's peak of $62.7 billion in 2008. From there, values dropped 38% as the recession took hold. 

The owner of property with a taxable value of $500,000 would pay $1,695 based on the 2020 early numbers.

And in continuing that trend of fluctuation, Radtke says taxable values will “see minimal increases and decreases” over the next five years, which could also depend on the county’s taxable revenue based on new construction.

But commissioners don’t seem to view an increase in taxable values as a negative thing — in fact, while they don’t want to see it continue to rise at substantial rates, they do at least see it as yet another sign of the county’s overall post-recession recovery.

“We’re not sitting here hoping [gross assessed taxable value] goes up 30%,” “ Maio said, affirming the current value is still $500 million below 2008. “We don’t want excess values of our homes to go up dramatically.”

Plus, their confidence in the millage rate — and the county’s status as a desirable place to live — remains undiminished, as Sarasota County itself holds the second-lowest millage rate out of all 67 Florida counties.

“Even if you go back to the year 2000, that 4.58 rate still would put us easily in the bottom quarter out of millage rates across the state,” Commission Chair Charles Hines said. “Right now we’re second, we’ve been second and we’re strong second.”

In the coming weeks, the budget is subject to change based on departmental reports and final property values, which will be reported to county officials in early July. The “not-to-exceed” millage rate will also be set in July, followed by a vote on the final budget in August.

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