SARASOTA — For all the worries nationwide about budget shortfalls at state and local levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarasota County’s budget staff will present a balanced budget to county commissioners as they begin their annual budget workshops this week.

That’s not to say the county is out of the woods, but with careful planning and managing expenditures, the budget outlook over the next five years looks manageable.

County Administrator Jonathan Lewis will present a $1.3 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 to commissioners as they conduct their workshops this coming Wednesday and Thursday. That includes pausing $5 million in planned expenditures for the coming year besides other measures to offset anticipated decreases in several major revenue sources.

Those measures include delaying or deferring several capital improvement projects and hiring only for mission- critical positions.

County property owners will see a slight increase in the overall millage rate from 3.43 mills in 2020 to 3.46 mills for 2021.

After seven years of maintaining the millage rate at 3.39 mills, commissioners increased it to 3.43 mills in 2020 after voters agreed to the additional tax in November when they approved the purchase of the Legacy Trail Extension by the county.

The slight increase this year is tied to the Legacy Trail project, according to Budget Director Kim Radtke.

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 to the school board and other taxing entities including the county’s municipalities.

Even without the voter-approved increase, property owners will likely see an increase in their taxes anyway due to an overall increase in property values in the county.

According to the preliminary taxable values certified by the property appraiser and reported to the county’s budget office in June, property values in the county increased from $62.3 billion in 2020 to $65.1 billion for the 2021 fiscal year.

The report on final property values is due July 1.

Commissioners will conduct the budget workshops on Wednesday and Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. both days in commission chambers at the County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota.

Anyone planning to attend the workshops in person will be screened for the COVID-19 virus before being allowed to enter the building. Seating inside commission chambers is also limited due to social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of the virus, and commissioners are encouraging people to submit public comments via a site the county has created at www.scgov.net/publicinput.

Email: jondaltonwr@gmail.com

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