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Port St. Joe OKs final budget

Months of budgeting processes came to an end Friday night as the city of Port St. Joe held their final budget hearing for the upcoming 2023-24 fiscal year.

There, commissioners Scott Hoffmand and Eric Langston and Mayor Rex Buzzett voted to approve the city’s tentative budget, which will see the continuation of the city’s current millage rate, significant employee pay raises and increased funding for city projects.

The city’s millage rate in the upcoming fiscal year will remain unchanged at 3.5914 mills.

This rate is more than 15.6 percent higher than the rollback rate, meaning the city expects to bring in an additional ad valorem tax funding.

These were the maximum millage rates that could be adopted by the county in accordance with the tentative millage rate set by the commissioners in July. After tentative millage is set, it cannot be raised during further budgeting processes, though it may be lowered.

The rollback rate, or the millage rate needed to bring in the exact same amount of money as the year prior, is calculated using the total county property after reassessment by the Gulf County Property Appraiser’s office.

This means that those whose property values have increased since last year will end up paying more in taxes, even if the rate is lower. 

Port St. Joe’s tax rolls have increased by about 30 percent from last year, or about 61 percent from 2018.

According to Property Appraiser Mitch Burke, this is largely due to a significant amount of new construction in the area.

“The City of Port St. Joe has seen a tremendous amount of growth in taxable value due to new construction of single-family homes from both DR Horton and Truland Homes,” he said. 

Port St. Joe’s new construction and additions totaled $66.90 million this year, a 135% increase from 2022.

When questioned why increased tax funding was necessary by members of the public, Mayor Rex Buzzett stated that the additional funding would go towards city projects that otherwise would go unfunded.

“We would offer more services, pave more roads, those types of things. We can’t operate on the same budget we had last year and still do things. You’ve got cost of living increases and all those things.”

The city’s 2023-24 budget also lays out significant funding for employee pay raises, which will be given at a rate of 6.5 percent across the board.

Commissioners also voted not to raise utility rates for city residents for the third year in a row.

The city’s fiscal year 2023-24 budget will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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