Lee County’s tax rate for next year has been set to remain at a 30-year low, but taxpayers likely will see a slight increase next year for library services.
Commissioners approved the rate this week, electing to leave the countywide tax rate at 4.15 — the same as it has been since 2007-08 and at the rate it was in 1982-83. This means a property owner will pay $4.15 for every $1,000 the property is assessed.
The rate will be reflected on the Truth In Millage notices that will be mailed later this month.
The notice also includes the tax rate for schools, city governments, fire districts and other special taxing districts.
Two more budget hearings are scheduled — Sept. 7 and Sept. 21 — and the budget will be adopted Sept. 21. The rates can go no higher than what commissioners agreed on this week.
The staff is recommending a $604.6 million operating budget for 2011-12, which includes a $17 million reduction, or 2.8 percent less than this year.
Pete Winton, assistant county manager, said the increase in the library tax would amount to $1.60 per $100,000 of assessment.
“The libraries have been operating at a deficit,” Winton said. “We have to inch that back up.” He said the library tax had been reduced by about 25 percent in 2008-09, when the county was spending down its reserves.
Winton said the county would have to make some cuts because revenues have continued fall the past four years.
“This year, most cuts will relate to cutting back operational costs,” Winton said. “We’ll also cut travel and be cutting 84 positions.”
He said additional savings will come from the state’s new pension system, which will save the county 3 percent per eligible employee.
Roy Hyman, chairman of the Golden Goose Committee of the Lee County Republican Party and a member of the Lee County advisory committee on the budget, said he is heartened by the commissioners’ action.
“It turned out to be a major victory for the taxpayers of the county, inasmuch as at least the general fund rate will stay the same as last year,” Hyman wrote in an email. “The library rate will rise but the general fund is the main account for the county.”
The Golden Goose Committee is a watchdog group that has examined county finances for many years.
Lee’s vote to hold the rate the same follows a similar move by Collier County last month. The commission there adopted the same general fund tax rate as last fiscal year — $3.56 for each $1,000 of property value.
Courtesy of News Press