Last month the board of Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. earmarked $15 million for a fund to assist four counties impacted by Hurricane Michael with loss of ad valorem tax loss this year.
All those applications to the Hurricane Michael Major Disaster Recovery Program must be forwarded through the Board of County Commissioners, the Triumph board mandated.
Triumph would provide grant funding representing 50 percent of the projected loss.
During a special meeting last week, the BOCC approved an application which seeks nearly $2.6 million to offset projected tax losses by the county, school district and two cities.
In the application, the county projects an ad valorem tax shortfall of 20 percent for the county and school district, with an estimated loss of 10 percent in the city of Port St. Joe and 5 percent for the city of Wewahitchka.
That number is lower than previous projections of property value loss by Property Appraiser Mitch Burke.
During a Triumph board meeting earlier this year, Burke projected the county’s property tax loss could be 30-40 percent.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said those projections have dropped, though final numbers will be unknown until July when Burke is required by law to certify a tax roll.
“If it ends up being 10 percent, we will probably jump for joy,” said Port St. Joe City Manager Jim Anderson. “We just won’t know for sure until July.”
The Triumph application breaks down the dollars sought:
For the BOCC, the application seeks $1.3 million, half of the projected $2.6 million shortfall.
For Gulf District Schools, the loss is projected at $2.4 million (differing exemptions apply to school districts and county governments) and the Triumph application seeks $1.2 million in grant funds.
The numbers for the city of Port St. Joe ($54,780 sought against a projected loss of $109,560) and city of Wewahitchka ($8,606 sought with a projected shortfall of $17,212) are considerably less.
However, as Hammond noted, the city of Port St. Joe will suffer more significant revenue losses via the drop in water and sewer customers.
Anderson said the latest count is that the city has lost 294 utility customers, though Anderson added the number has been fluid.
“That will be the significant loser for us,” Anderson said. “When you look at the (Triumph money) that is really pennies on the dollar that can help our general fund.
“We will need the (Triumph) money, but our bread-and-butter is the water and sewer.”
The Triumph board has indicated it consider the applications into the Disaster Recovery Fund, which is accessible only to the counties of Gulf, Bay, Franklin and Wakulla, on an expedited basis.
The hope is that the money could be in local coffers by May.
Indications are Franklin and Wakulla County officials may not tap the fund as neither county is projecting significant shortfalls in property taxes for the coming years.
The counties are also free to seek funding for other projects aimed at diversifying or enhancing local economies.
The Disaster Recovery Fund was established solely to meet property tax shortfalls and does not preclude the four counties from seeking funds for other projects.