During a special meeting Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners finalized a budget and millage rate for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The board maintained the same millage rate as the current year, 7.1000 countywide and 7.4946 when fire district levies and the taxing units for beach restoration are folded in.
The millage rate is 4.98 percent below the rollback rate, that rate, 7.8873, which would bring in the same number of dollars as this year.
A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable property value.
The millage rates for the Municipal Services Taxing Units (MSTUs) established to fund $4 million of the cost of a just-started beach restoration project are 1.1547 gulf-side, 0.8664 gulf-interior and 0.9016 bayside.
Each fire control district assesses a half-mill levy on property within its district.
The budget includes a 3 percent raise for employees and a 10 percent cut to funding for outside agencies, such as the libraries, humane society, life management.
Triumph Gulf Coast grant funding also buttressed the budget, with Triumph providing $2 million to meet ad valorem tax shortfalls.
County Administrator Michael Hammond said staff had massaged the budget to use only about half of the Triumph dollars, leaving the county on solid footing heading forward.
Staff, he added, began working on the budget last October after Hurricane Michael.
The product was collaborative effort of staff and commissioners, he said.
The budget includes $9.5 million in cash carried forward for budget purposes, $4.3 million of which is already restricted.
“We are lucky, for all the turmoil, pain and destruction we don’t owe anybody,” Hammond said. “We didn’t borrow anything.
“This is a very conservative budget. Hopefully, next year we will be back to budget normalcy.”
As Gov. Ron DeSantis announced $5 million in infrastructure funding to counties impacted by Hurricane Michael, the board approved during an earlier regular season using some of those dollars.
The board, which received roughly $1 million in the infrastructure grant funding, approved a contract for $481,000 to complete the transfer station, which will be constructed as a more user-friendly facility, Hammond said.
The prior transfer station was dismantled by previous contractor Waste Pro and became the subject of litigation between the company and county.
Dead Lakes/Salinas parks
A final signed contract with GAC to take over rebuilding and operations at Dead Lakes Park is “imminent,” said Warren Yeager, assistant county administrator.
The current plans for the park include the installation of 100 concrete pads with utility connections, a laundry, pool, playground, market, grilling stations and beach area.
Yeager said the goal was to have the improvements completed by the end of the year.
“There is a lot of infrastructure going into that park,” Yeager said. “And public access will remain to the park and the boat ramp.”
GAC will pay the county a monthly lease payment during its operation of the park.
Prior to Hurricane Michael, Dead Lakes was the lone money-making park in the county.
Meanwhile, improvements at Salinas Park bayside should be completed by the end of November, Yeager said.
The pickleball courts on the gulf-side of Salinas Park were painted this week.
The elevated boardwalk, wildlife viewing tower, bathrooms and other improvements bayside are coming along.
The county is to advertise for a consultant to assist with the rehabilitation of the greens at St. Joseph Bay Golf Club.
Yeager said a consultant was needed to analyze the entire system, including irrigation, and said an overhaul of all greens was needed.
The golf club has a fundraising tournament next month to raise funds toward the green rehabilitation.
Overall, Yeager said, operations under new club pro Jared Arnold were going well, with the clubhouse painted, fencing going up around the pool and people signing up for new memberships.
In addition, the 19th Hole Provisions had opened and was doing good business and the pro shop has re-opened.
“Things are going really well,” Yeager said. “A lot of folks are involved in the rehab.
“I’m well-pleased with the direction that the club is going.”