County Commission holds the line on base property tax rate

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Posted August 7, 2020 | By Bill Thompson, Deputy Editor

Marion County commissioners on Tuesday sealed the cap on the community’s base property tax rate for 2021.

The board unanimously backed a proposal, raised two weeks ago, to keep the approved tax rate paid by all county property owners constant at $4.42 per $1,000 of taxable value.

That is the rate announced in mandatory mailers that will go out to property owners this week. By law, the board can reduce the proposed rate in finalizing the county’s $629 million budget for next year, but it cannot go above the ceiling established on Tuesday.

The first of two required public hearings on the budget will be held Sept. 3.

At that rate, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 for tax purposes would pay $442. But the rate is separate from other property taxes levied by cities, special tax districts and state water management agencies

In order to hold the rate steady, commissioners had to overcome a $4 million shortfall because of reduced sales tax revenues from the state.

Budget Director Michael Tomich explained that other taxes were generating more revenue than expected, and thus offset the deficit by about $1 million. Commissioners found about $265,000 when improvements to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion were less costly than budgeted.

Additionally, the board pared a proposed 3 percent raise for all county employees, except those working for the property appraiser and the sheriff, to 1 percent.

Commissioners also found savings in overtime costs apportioned to jobs that had been deleted in emergency services, holding off installation of a new air conditioning unit at the courthouse until 2022 and cancelling a contract with the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership for business loans.

Regarding the latter, the board in April had set aside $250,000 the CEP could tap to help small local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, though, Tomich indicated the county could retrieve that money because the federal CARES Act had provided funding for that purpose.

“It’s an amazing thing that you did, to try to do this just to make sure we keep our millage rate flat,” Commissioner Jeff Gold said in comments to the staff. “I’m sure the taxpayers appreciate it.”

Taxpayers must wait and see how much they will appreciate it, however.

Property values countywide increased by 7.8 percent this year, meaning many property owners will still see a higher tax bill, even though the base rate remains the same.

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