Wewahitchka, Port St. Joe dive into budgeting processes

The millage rate for property taxes in Wewahitchka will be no higher than it has been for the past several years, and could come in lower, depending on what city commissioners do in the next several weeks.

At the city’s July 28 meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to leave the city’s millage rate unchanged at 6.1133 mills, so that remains the ceiling, as per state law. The rollback rate, which is the amount needed to retain this year’s ad valorem revenue at the same level, is 5.4488 mills, which is 0.6645 mills below that of the tentative millage rate.

“We will have to advertise that there’s an increase in taxes even though there’s not an increase in the millage rate,” said Wewahitchka Mayor  “The income will be greater.”

Because Wewa saw growth in its tax base, keeping the millage unchanged will yield higher property tax revenues.

Property Appraiser Mitch Burke said Wewahitchka saw a 14.3 percent growth in its tax base, to about $70 million. This is 22 percent greater than two years ago. Therefore, Proctor said, should the millage rate remain the same, the city can expect to bring in about $44,000 in addition to what they received in the 2021 to 22 fiscal year.

Commissioner for Ward II Ralph Fisher stated that some of the increased taxable value in the city was due to new construction.

“Some of the economic trends for Gulf County appear to show we are in a healthy real estate market,” wrote Gulf County Property Appraiser Mitch Burke in a press release last month. “As of January 1, 2022, New Construction, and additions accounted for $93.73 million in Market (Just) value which equates to approximately $77.60 million of taxable value.”

In addition to voting not to raise the city’s millage rate, the commissioners established a tentative budget date of September 13 at 5:01 p.m. CDT.

Port St. Joe votes for flexibility in millage, budgeting process

Last month, city commissioners in Port St. Joe also began the preliminary steps of setting the city’s millage rate, though they allowed some room for the millage to be raised should they decide its necessary during upcoming budgeting processes.

“In the past (few years), we haven’t changed it, and we probably won’t change it this year,” said Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett at the city’s July 19 meeting. “But we need a little flexibility going into the budgeting process) in case anything comes up.”

The city’s commissioners unanimously voted to tentatively add one mill to the existing rate of 3.5914 mills, though they all expressed they did not intend to raise the tax rate so much.

This a typical process of the city’s for setting millage, though last year the commissioners voted early that they would not be raising the rate.

The motion, made by Commissioner Scott Hoffman, stated that up to one mill could be added to the city’s current rate “with the idea that it will not happen unless there’s some kind of catastrophic event between now and budget time.”

Port St. Joe will hold its first public workshop for the city’s budget on September 13 at 5:01 p.m. EDT.

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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