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Millage won’t change after first county public budget hearing

By Tim Croft
The Star

The status quo, at least for one more year, is just fine for the Board of County Commissioners. 

During their first public hearing on the budget Monday, commissioners stayed the course with little to no comment from either the public or commissioners. 

The aggregate millage rate adopted was 7.4935 and goes into effect Oct. 1. 

A mill is equal to $1 per every $1,000 of taxable personal property. 

That millage rate is broken down, with the start a 7.1 mill county-wide levy, unchanged from the prior year as pledged to receive grant money from Triumph Gulf Coast to fill budget holes. 

Though Administrator Michael Hammond said the grant dollars didn’t fill all the holes, it provided a temporary bridge for commissioners during Hurricane Michael recovery. 

“You were able to maintain the same millage as last year,” Hammond said. “We had hoped to have a balanced budget for you without having to go into reserves too much, but we had to a little.” 

Hammond said he believed the BOCC would be better positioned next year. 

“I would like to see the millage rate slowly decline after that,” he added. “This is a responsible, conservative budget we have provided.” On top of the county-wide millage, each fire control district levies half a mill. 

The three Municipal Services Taxing Units (MSTUs) established to help pay for beach restoration are 1.0232 for gulf-front, 0.7785 for gulf-interior and 0.8175 for bayside. 

The aggregate rate is 7.89 percent above the rollback rate of 6.9452. 

The rollback rate is that levy which would secure the same revenue as the prior year. 

Financial officer Sherry Herring said reasons for not reaching the rollback rate was the pledge to Triumph as well as several expenses. 

Those would include the interlocal agreement with the city of Port St. Joe that calls for the county to make annual payments over the next three years in exchange for the city sunsetting the original community redevelopment area. 

The county also created a county engineer position, provided a 3 percent raise for all employees and there were increases in the county’s contribution to the state retirement system. 

And, with the new fiscal year, the county enters a two-year cycle of updating the software used by the property appraiser’s office. 

Herring added that the Triumph grant money “mitigated” some of the losses due to Hurricane Michael. 

She said the second public hearing on the budget would be 5:01 p.m. ET Wednesday, Sept. 23. 

Constitutional officer salaries 

As it does each year, the state, using a formula based on population, economic and demographic factors, has released new salaries for all constitutional officers. 

In Gulf, that means the property appraiser, clerk of courts, superintendent of schools, supervisor of elections and tax collector will all earn $104,211 in salary during the coming year. 

The sheriff, and by county ordinance Hammond, will earn $114,033. 

The salary for county commissioners will be $29,145 and $27,583 for school board members. 

Those salaries take effect Oct. 1.