The High Springs City Commission voted 4-1, with Commissioner Katherine Weitz in dissent, on Monday to increase the millage rate for the next fiscal year.
The millage rate will increase from 5.99 mills to 6.99 mills, resulting in a 26.89% tax increase over the rollback rate. The rollback rate considers rising property values and shows the millage the city would need to adopt to earn the same amount of money as the previous year.
The one mil increase will result in an extra $100 per $100,000 of assessed value on a property—with assessed values available on the property appraiser’s website.
High Springs residents also pay Alachua County property taxes. The county will vote Tuesday for a lower millage rate but didn’t drop to the rollback rate.
City Manager Ashley Stathatos said the city would have to cut around $200,000 worth of employees if the rate stayed at the current millage along with cuts in services.
“It definitely would be an impact on services that would be felt, and I’m not trying to be alarmist,” Stathatos said.
The new millage rate will bring in approximately $7.2 million, and High Springs’ total budget will be $17.5 million with other revenue streams—Wild Spaces Public Places funds, impact fees, water and sewer rates, community reinvestment area funds.
The budget includes one additional police officer and 3% raises for all staff except directors. Increases also come as High Springs meets required pension hikes for police and fire, according to Commissioner Ross Ambrose.
Ambrose said the city has grown, requiring more work for staff. Dropping the millage rate to the rollback rate would require staff to do more with less, he said.
In past budget cycles, Ambrose said he’s watched debates lead to tax cuts, but he said those tax losses then forced employee and morale cuts as well, taking years to recover. He said the city has done better over the past couple of years with more revenues.
Commissioner Tristan Grunder said he couldn’t vote to keep the millage rate flat if that meant people losing jobs this year. However, he said his goal will be to find savings and bring the rate back down in the next year or two.
But this year isn’t an option.
“I don’t see another way,” Grunder said. “I honestly don’t. I’m willing to listen to everything and everybody.”
The City Commission also passed the $17.5 million overall budget, also with Weitz in dissent, and voted unanimously to keep the commissioner salaries flat.