County adopts budget of $1.4 billion for 2023-24

File photo: County Administrator Mounir Bouyounes speaks during a Capital Improvement Project Workshop in the County Commission auditorium at the McPherson Governmental Complex in Ocala on March 21. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2022.

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Posted September 29, 2023 | By Caroline Brauchler

The Marion County Board of County Commissioners has adopted the 2023-24 fiscal year total budget of over $1.4 billion and a millage rate of 4.29 mills.

The total budget includes the countywide budget of $998,957,168 and a budget of $409,601,684 for various non-countywide entities. This new budget, approved Sept. 21, will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1.

The adopted millage will stay the same at 4.29 mills. Last year, the county commission decreased the millage rate from the 2021-22 fiscal year’s rate of 4.42 mills. The millage rate is the amount of tax that will be paid for each $1,000 of property value. In the coming fiscal year, Marion County property owners can expect to pay $4.29 per each $1,000 of their property’s value.

Residential homeowners are eligible for tax exemptions, including but not limited to the homestead, widow, disability and veteran exemptions.

The adopted budget is an increase from the current year’s budget, which was $1.2 billion. The increase is partially due to funding public safety, said Commissioner Kathy Bryant in the first of two public hearings on Sept. 7 to finalize the budget.

While the countywide millage rate will stay the same, there will be a 10.76% increase over the rolled-back millage rates for the general fund, a 10.76% increase for the fine and forfeiture fund and a 10.78% increase for the Marion County Health Unit Trust Fund.

This tax increase is intended for specific purposes. Within the general fund, there will be an increase of $5.24 million in funds for the sheriff’s jail operations for inmate medical services and an increase of $3.38 million for ambulance services.

While this is a significant increase in costs for the county, it is an expense that the commission cannot avoid, Bryant said.

“I mean, the inmate medical is completely out of our control. It’s something that we are mandated by state statute to provide for inmates when they go into the county jail,” she said.

The increase of $3.38 million for ambulance services is due to the county needing to renegotiate its union contract with the Professional Firefighters of Marion County. The new contract increases the pay of paramedics and firefighters.

Within the fine and forfeiture fund, which helps fund the cost of criminal prosecutions, there will be an increase of $2.87 million for the sheriff’s regular operations and an increase of $446,249 for the sheriff’s bailiff operations.

The sheriff’s budget makes up 71% of the expenditures from this fund, but the state attorney’s technology and communications are funded by this fund. Marion County receives reimbursements from other counties for their share of the district-wide technology and communications costs of $398,120, according to Katie Hunnicutt, communications manager for the Marion County Clerk of Court and Comptroller.

For the health unit trust fund, the increase in millage over the rollback rate will serve to add $653,082 for future capital improvements.

Due to the millage rate remaining the same, any tax increase that property owners may see for the next fiscal year is likely due to the value of their property increasing.

The county has seen about an $18 million increase in property tax revenue over the past year, according to data presented in earlier budget workshops, and an even higher amount of new growth.

“The new construction from 2022-23 to 2023-24 was $1.4 billion,” said Budget Director Audrey Fowler at the first public hearing. “Last year, it was $938 million. This year was a record high.”

The countywide taxable property value has increased by just over $4 billion in the past year, from $25.8 billion in 2022-23 to $30 billion in 2023-24.

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