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Sarasota County commissioners challenge staff to consider tax cut

During the first budget session for fiscal year 2025, Neil Rainford said keeping the flat tax rate assumption should be questioned.

Neil Rainford was sworn into office as Sarasota County District 3 commissioner on June 13, 2023.
Neil Rainford was sworn into office as Sarasota County District 3 commissioner on June 13, 2023.
Image courtesy of Sarasota County Government
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If the opening session of the Sarasota County budget season is any indication, discussions in forthcoming workshops may center on reconsideration of keeping the county’s ad valorem taxes at their current rate.

During the May 20 budget workshop, the Sarasota County Commission’s newest member, Neil Rainford, challenged the notion that, given the rapidly growing residential and commercial property base and resulting tax revenue, staff should consider lowering the millage on homes, land and commercial properties. 

Although it was the first budget workshop for fiscal year 2025, among the preliminary assumptions were that there are no new revenue sources for existing services and making no change to the countywide millage rate except for any fluctuations to the voter-approved Legacy Trail debt millage.

“From a flat county millage rate standpoint, I know we've operated under that kind of thinking for a long time due to the increased property values and so forth over the last many years,” Rainford said. “I think that we should look at where the options are for us to potentially find reductions and at least be prepared over the next course of budget hearings to see if there's opportunities to lower that.”

Rainford, who represents District 3, was appointed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis to fill the remainder of the late Nancy Detert’s term, which expires this year.

“Due to property value increases and inflationary increases on our constituents, I hear often about the cost of living here in Sarasota,” Rainford said. “I would encourage us as a board to not just accept a flat county millage rate, but to look for areas of improvement.”

Commission Chairman Mike Moran — who is participating in his final budget session before mandatory retirement as he completes his second four-year term this fall — expressed support for Rainford’s position, sending a message to staff as it develops spending plans compared to the fiscal year 2024 adopted budget.

“In my industry, we're seeing cost reductions — obviously we've seen inflation at all-time highs for the last several years  — so I would think that we are able to reduce in certain areas,” Rainford said. “Obviously our taxable base is increasing as well.”

Since fiscal year 2020, the county’s taxable property value has grown from $60.4 billion to $91.36 billion, an increase of 51%. That corresponds with ad valorem tax revenue of $197 million in fiscal 2020 and $294.4 million in 2024, also a growth of 51%.



Andrew Warfield

Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

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