An increase in the county's property taxes, among others, means the county will have more money than it bargained for.
Despite a year of budget uncertainties because of COVID-19, the county’s initial budget projects for fiscal year 2022 show promise of growth.
The county’s major revenue sources are trending higher than originally expected, which means commissioners have more money to consider when creating the fiscal year 2022 budget.
Before the pandemic spread throughout the U.S., officials estimated county property values would rise 5.8% in time for fiscal year 2022 evaluations. That estimate fell to 4.2% after the spread.
However, county officials in late May announced the value at 6.3% — a number that outperformed original projections.
That increase equates to an additional $11 million to be added to the county’s general fund budget. And county officials told commissioners June 22 they expect a larger uptick when the July 1 property values are released.
Property value figures are used by local government to set their budgets for the fiscal year. Sarasota County has had a promising year as the median home sale prices have risen to $407,000, a record high for the county.
In 2020, the taxable property values countywide hit a record mark of $65.5 billion. With the increase in median home price on the rise, the taxable property values for fiscal year 2022 are estimated at $69.6 billion assuming at least 95% of the property taxes are paid.
In addition to property values, Director of the Office of Financial Management Kim Radtke said several other county figures are promising.
The half-cent sales tax, the state revenue sharing and the Florida Power & Light franchise fee all are trending upward compared to fiscal year 2021. Additionally, the tourist development tax has a projected revenue of $22.5 million, an increase of 18.4%.
It’s not all good news, though. The Communications Services Tax number is down by about $585,000. The bass tax revenues will drop by about 5.4% due to a lack of tourists, Radtke said.
Altogether, the general fund’s revenues are projected at $264 million, a total increase of 5.1% over the previous year. Major revenues are projected at $550 million, an increase of 4% over the previous year.
“This increase is good news,” Radtke said. “We have seen really good growth this year.”
That growth extends to the departmental budgets too. Radtke said the departmental budget bucket will see a total increase of 2.5%. That increase will allow several departments to fund projects that have been on the horizon.
The biggest increase belongs to the Public Works Department, a rise of 9.3% to $7.3 million. Meanwhile, the Health & Human Services department will see a decrease of 3.6% to $9.7 million.
Two major projects will receive funding from the fiscal year 2022 budget. About $612,000 will be given to pay for amenities in The Bay project as part of an agreement between the county and the city.
Additionally, the county plans to begin work on a 40-bed mental health and substance abuse treatment facility for people charged with low-level crimes. The center will cost approximately $2.6 million.
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