County manager proposes another tax rate cut 

Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman
Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman said the county's financial position is strong during a presentation to the BOCC Tuesday.
File photo by Suzette Cook

Alachua County Manager Michele Lieberman is recommending lowering the county’s general government tax rate for fiscal year 2024, and if passed, it will be the seventh year in a row that the county has lowered taxes. 

Lieberman presented her proposed budget to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at Tuesday’s evening meeting. Currently, the county’s millage rate, which is the tax rate charged to property owners, is 7.7662 and would drop to 7.6414 under the county manager’s proposed budget. 

“I’m pleased to report that the state of Alachua County government is strong,” she told the commission. “Our finances are in order, and my talented staff is up to the opportunities and challenges of the coming year. Our many years of responsible financial planning has built a strong foundation that allows us to deliver the high quality services our residents have come to expect.” 

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The millage rate is the amount a property owner has to 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 the taxable value of a home is $100,000, an Alachua County property owner would pay $764.14 in general government taxes in 2024 vs. $776.62 in 2023. 

In 2017, the millage rate was 9.5615, but the BOCC has dropped it every fiscal year since. The proposed rate for 2024 would represent almost a 2-mill reduction from 2017. 

Lieberman is recommending holding the law enforcement municipal service taxing unit (MSTU) millage rate at its current level of 3.5678 mills. A homeowner with an assessed property value of $100,000 would continue to pay $356.78 for the MSTU. 

The county also would hold fire assessment at current levels but is proposing a $10 increase to the county’s stormwater fee and small increases to various solid waste fees. 

The costs of handling stormwater runoff, including the purchase of three additional heavy-duty pumps to handle flooding, are part of what is driving the increase to the stormwater fee, Lieberman said. 

The proposed solid waste fee increases include: 

  • A $21 increase for rural collection from $110.58 to $132.02. 
  • A $12 increase for universal collection, which uses a 64-gallon cart, from $264.56 to $276.86. 
  • A $5 increase for the solid waste management assessment residential fee from $20.78 to $25.27. 

“Those are the only increases we are recommending this year,” Lieberman said. 

Alachua County’s property values are rising, which means the lower millage rate will still generate 10.68% more in the general fund revenues as well as a 9.05% increase for the law enforcement MSTU. The project tax revenue under the proposed millage would be almost $153 million. 

Lieberman said part of the larger budget would cover an expected 6% increase in health insurance costs and provide cost-of-living (COLA) raises to the county’s approximately 2,000 employees. The county also would increase its minimum wage this year, moving from $16 to $17. 

Source: Alachua County How the county allocates tax revenue.

Under the proposed budget, the county plans to contribute $8 million to increase road maintenance, which is in addition to the almost $12 million that the new infrastructure surtax will provide, Lieberman said. 

The passing of the 1 cent surtax for infrastructure and Wild Spaces Public Places was one of the many accomplishments that Lieberman and county department heads touted during their annual report video presentation

Although the county is proposing lowering the millage rate, it has not proposed decreasing the millage to the rollback rate. The rollback rate is the millage rate that would generate approximately the same amount of tax money as the previous year.  

The rollback rate for fiscal year 2024 is 7.2153, approximately a half mill less than the current year’s tax rate. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell praised the county staff’s work on the 2024 budget but also the county’s fiscal discipline. 

“Today when we did the [fiscal year 2022] audit, to see we have $65 million in fund balance and $33 [million] of it is unallocated – that should tell the public that Alachua County watches its pennies,” Cornell said. “We don’t spend dollars that we don’t have.” 

The county will set the tentative millage rates at a public hearing on July 11 during its evening meeting. The final budget adoption is slated for Sept. 26. 

As part of the budget adoption process, the BOCC will review office and departmental budgets over the next few months. The Office of Budget and Fiscal Services maintains a calendar of budget meetings as well as the county’s Open Finance portal, which provides a dashboard for exploring the Alachua’s revenues, expenditures and financial transactions. 

“We fund our priorities,” Cornell said. “And I hope that we continue to do that and to listen to the public as to what’s important.” 

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