Rapid growth paves way for lower property tax in Sumter County

A proposed budget for Sumter County for 2022-23 would staff ambulances and reduce the property tax rate while increasing general fund spending.

Commissioners are expected to take a first look at the proposed $310 million budget on Tuesday morning. The final adoption is scheduled for the end of September after two public hearings. The 2022-23 fiscal year begins October 1.

The proposed budget was outlined in a letter to County Chairman Craig Estep from County Administrator Bradley Arnold.

Four commissioner seats are up for grabs in the August 23 primary, but this year the budget may not be the same burning issue as in 2020, when a 25% increase in the tax rate l he previous year led to the ousting of three incumbents. commissioners.

In the proposed budget, the property tax rate would be $5.59 per $1,000 of property assessment, the same rate as in 2016 and a 9% decrease from the rate of 6.15 $ from last year. The rate would be set at the reduced rate, ie the amount necessary to collect the same income as the previous year. Setting a rate higher than the reduced rate constitutes a tax increase.

Total expenditures of approximately $310 million are up 2.2% from last year’s budget of $303 million. General fund expenditures would increase by 8.1% to $180.1 million.

Property taxes are one of the county’s 76 sources of revenue. Others include local option sales taxes, intergovernmental transfers, service fees, and fire assessment fees.

The hiring of 36 firefighters, paramedics or emergency medical technicians is a major factor in the increase in expenditure.

The new positions are needed as the county begins an Oct. 1 transition to county-staffed ambulances from those provided by American Medical Response (AMR), a national private company that has operated the service for a decade. Commissioners voted last year to transfer to county staff after long delays were reported for AMR ambulances.

The budget also provides for the hiring of two EMS division managers, an assistant director of employee services, three lieutenants and 10 part-time firefighters-paramedics.

Eleven new positions would be added to the sheriff’s office for a total of 377 employees. The tax collector would add four positions for a total of 38.

A 5.9% increase in the cost of living would be provided to cover increases for county employees.

Rapid growth, especially in Southern Oaks Villages and rental housing projects, is providing new property tax revenue that is helping to keep the rate low. Last year, the county had 20,141 building permits and added 3,882 single-family homes.

Business parks such as Gov. Rick Scott and industrial areas such as the area near Interstate 75 and State Road 44 also continue to grow with new businesses expanding.

Penny D. Jackson