Alachua County sets tentative tax rates and assessments

County manager Michele Lieberman
County Manager Michele Lieberman has proposed a fiscal year budget that will result in a small decrease in the county's general fund tax rate.
Courtesy of Alachua County

Alachua County is proposing to shave its general county tax rate for fiscal year 2025, and to keep the tax rate for law enforcement the same as last year. 

If finalized, it will be the eighth year in a row the county has dropped its general fund tax rate. 

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved the tentative millage rates Tuesday and set the initial solid waste, stormwater and fire services rates. The fire services rate is remaining the same as last year while the county is proposing increases to both the solid waste and stormwater fees. 

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The fiscal year 2025 millage rate for the county general fund would drop to 7.6180 from 7.6414, while the Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)–law enforcement rate would stay at 3.5678. 

The millage rate is the amount a property owner must pay per $1,000 of assessed value. Assessed value is typically lower than market value, and any tax exemptions are subtracted from the assessed value before the tax rate is applied. 

If a home’s taxable value is $100,000, an Alachua County property owner would pay $761.80 in general government taxes in fiscal year 2025 vs. $764.14 in fiscal year 2024. 

Although this year’s proposed rate represents a reduction, it is 6.87% higher than the 7.1286 rollback rate, according to Maureen Rischitelli, the county’s budget manager. The rollback rate is the millage rate that would generate approximately the same amount of tax money as the previous year. 

While the law enforcement MSTU millage rate is staying the same as last year, it represents a 7.78% increase over the 3.3103 rollback rate. 

Because of a projected increase in taxable property values, the new general county tax rate is expected to generate approximately $169 million in revenue, around $15 million more than in fiscal year 2024. The MSTU–law enforcement will generate approximately $32.6 million in revenue, an increase of $3 million over fiscal year 2024. 

The commission also approved the initial assessments and notice of public hearings for the following assessment rates: 

  • Solid waste assessment: increase the tipping fee from $57 to $65, allowing the county to collect approximately $13.2 million in non-ad valorem assessments to fund the Universal Curbside Collection, Rural Collection Center, and Solid Waste Management Programs. 
  • Stormwater  assessment: proposed $10 increase, adoption of a $60 Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) to generate an estimated $2.9 million, with a total revenue estimate of $3.6 million. 
  • Fire services: proposed rate is to remain the same at $90.69 for Tier 1 and $8.31 for Tier 2 per Equivalent Benefit Unit (EBU), estimated to generate $23.3 million. 
  • Sugarfoot Oaks/Cedar Ridge Special Assessment District: non-ad valorem assessment rates proposed to remain the same at $10 per unit/per month, to generate approximately $99,240 in revenue (not adjusted for non-collectibles) to fund community maintenance in the Sugarfoot Oaks/Cedar Ridge Preservation and Enhancement District. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell said he appreciated the fire chief allowing fire assessment rates to remain firm while stormwater and solid waste assessment rates rise this year. He said he anticipates a reverse scenario next year, and thanked staff for the lowered millage rate.  

A public hearing for the county’s proposed millage rates and tentative budget is set for 5:01 p.m. on Sept. 10. 

The county manager’s current budget book plans for $806,653,893 in total revenue and the same amount in expenses during the 2024-25 fiscal year. 

About 16% of the budget, or $133 million, is planned for law enforcement, and another $94 million for fire rescue. Capital projects are budgeted $41.3 million, and public works $61.6 million. 

Another $12.7 million is planned for parks and open space, and $5 million for animal resources. 

The budget book plans $43.7 million for environmental protection, $6.7 million for growth management and $29.8 million for solid waste and resource recovery. 

The budget’s short-term goals include raising the living wage to $18, redeveloping apartments including container housing and motel renovation, creating affordable housing for homeowners, a climate change action plan and other items. 

Chairperson Mary Alford said the county staff’s “excellent budgeting” is what allows the commission to approve lower millage rates. 

“I feel very, very fortunate that the budgeting season in this county is almost joyful sometimes,” Alford said. “When I heard we are proposing $44 million on roads this year, I was joyful.” 

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:  

The BOCC unanimously approved the acquisition of a 40-acre property for a conservation easement at a regular meeting on Tuesday. 

The Howell property, within the Alachua County Forever (ACF) Watermelon Pond project area and the Florida Forever Watermelon Pond project area, was placed on the active acquisition list in 2002. 

A conservation easement is a perpetual, undivided interest in a property to protect natural, scenic, or open space values, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). 

The Howell property is home to intact sandhill habitat, a sinkhole pond, rosemary scrub and oak hammock and a portion of Barrel Pond. 

“This is a key inholding within our network of conservation lands in this area, with a highly imperiled natural community and many associated imperiled species,” Alachua County Land Conservation Manager Andi Christman said at the meeting. 

The easement’s land use is to dedicate 35 acres as a preservation zone, and five acres as a building envelope for the landowner’s residence. Conservation easements do not include the right of public access. 

The acquisition, with an anticipated closing in November, is to cost the county $219,560, divided between land cost, due diligence and a 10% contingency. 

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The millage rate remains the same but because of home price inflation the County is actually RAISING Taxes almost 10% on businesses and rental property. This hurts working men and women and the poor that mostly have to rent and it destroys businesses and jobs. Look at the businesses that closed last year. Don’t be complacent because you are a homeowner and they can only raise us 3%. Think about your fellow men and women. DON’T vote for any local INCumbent