The City of Port St. Joe plans to keep their millage rate unchanged at 3.5914 mills in the upcoming fiscal year, ultimately bringing in about $316,965 more in ad valorem funding overall.
But although the tax rate has remained unchanged, some concerned residents expressed to the board that the amount they pay in taxes will be increasing due to their increased property values.
“The owners and residents of Barefoot Cottages asked me to come and speak on their behalf on this. I know that you’ve held the millage rate flat year over year, but it looks like the underlying is up about 23%,” said Curtis Brown during the period for public comment.
“Have you given any consideration to maybe dropping it? Because a rising tide lifts all boats, but all those boats are getting high, and so all the people that bought low and now are seeing that in their tax bill, they’re wondering if there’s any relief possible within these numbers.”
These additional funds will go towards increasing employee pay and infrastructure and road improvements, said Mayor Rex Buzzett, giving the reason the city feels it requires the additional ad valorem revenue.
“That makes sense because an increase in property values brought us in more money,” Buzzett said. “The budget through the years has actually gone up just about every year.”
“But this year especially, with inflation at near 9 percent, we felt like we needed to take care of our employees some in that regard.”
The 3.5914 mills rate is 16.59% above the rollback rate of 3.0803 mills, which is the amount of millage required for the city to bring in the same number of ad valorem tax dollars as they did the year prior.
The rate is calculated using the total city property after reassessment by the Gulf County Property Appraiser’s office.
Property Appraiser Mitch Burke said Port St. Joe saw a 24.13% percent growth in its tax base, to about $461,029,128.
Not all of the city’s property value gains are due to the increase in value of individual properties. Some can be attributed to new construction projects.
“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 in June. “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.”
The city commissioners unanimously voted to move forward with the existing millage rate, with commissioners Ashbrook and Langston absent from the meeting.
City Manager Jim Anderson brought up that the city’s water and sewer rates would also remain unchanged in the upcoming fiscal year, though there will be a slight increase in the garbage rate, which is not within the city’s control.
“If you’ve seen the news in the past couple of weeks, many municipalities are going up on their utility rates,” Anderson said. “In this budget, there is no increase in water or sewer rates.”
“With the garbage, we are subject by contract to three percent on January 1.”
Additional funding allocated towards employment will also be used to hire an additional city employee, who Commissioner Scott Hoffman said the city’s hopes will help relieve some of the extra burden of lacking inmate crews.
The city’s final budget hearing will be held at a public meeting on September 27 at 5:01 p.m. EDT. When final approval has been reached, the budget will go into effect on October 1.