SARASOTA — In record time this week, Sarasota County commissioners approved their budget for the next fiscal year, with a slight increase in the millage rate property owners will see on their tax bill.
Taking just 24 minutes, slightly less than last year’s 26 minutes, commissioners approved County Administrator Jonathan Lewis’ proposed $1.334 billion budget for 2021 without discussion or any public comment on Wednesday night.
The new budget represents a $13 million increase over 2020’s $1.321 billion budget.
The millage rate to support that budget rises from 3.4331 mills to 3.4600 mills after county voters overwhelmingly agreed to an additional tax in November 2018 when they approved the county’s purchase of the Legacy Trail Extension.
The slight increase is necessary to finance the debt service on the bonds the county issued to finance the purchase and construction of the extended trail into North Port and downtown Sarasota.
That $1.334 billion budget, which finances the operations of county government along with the constitutional officers like the sheriff, takes effect Thursday. The budget also includes $273 million to finance various capital improvement projects in the county over the next five years.
The increase in the millage rate means that the owner of a home valued at $100,000 after exemptions will pay $346 in property taxes to the county in addition to taxes levied by the school board and other taxing entities, including cities.
But even without the voter-approved increase, property owners were likely to see an increase in their taxes anyway due to an overall increase in property values in the county.
According to the final taxable values certified by the property appraiser and reported to the county’s budget office in July, property values in the county increased from $62.3 billion in 2020 to $65.5 billion for the 2021 fiscal year.
In a prepared letter accompanying the budget documents, Commission Chairman Mike Moran, who was absent from the meeting due to a death in his family, wrote of the budget, “We feel it reflects sound decision-making, good management, and the foresight required to meet the needs of the residents of Sarasota County.”