If you’re a property owner in Franklin County, the millage rate you pay to fund county government will be dropping a tiny bit for the next fiscal year.
And if you’re an employee of the county, the money you make at your job will be going up.
After two days of smooth budget workshops last week, in which nearly all the constitutional officers and county departments kept their annual budgets unchanged, county commissioners voted unanimously Friday to lower the millage rate from 6.3065 to 6.2762 mills, the equivalent of four-tenths of 1 percent.
Because the county’s tax base grew by 3.46 percent, from $1.83 billion to $1.89 billion, the lower millage will bring in about $11.86 million next year, which is about $350,000 more than the $11.51 million taken in this year.
A portion of this additional revenue, or about $221,000 will go towards funding a 3 percent pay raise to county employees, which county commissioners deemed a cost-of-living increase.
The raise means a county staffer earning $35,000 annually will earn an additional $1,050 per year.
Several other items were beyond commissioners’ control, such as the additional cost in the next budget year for the county’s funding of state retirement, which will go up by $64,011. In addition, the Capital Health Plan renewed at a 7.3 percent increase, which means the county’s share, which covers the entire premium for individual coverage, will go up by $144,486.
In her report, Erin Griffith, the assistant finance director, said Capital Health has proven to be a lower cost plan that the previous one, with single-digit price increases that are less than industry average. “Even with the increase in the renewal rate for 2018-19, the premium is $1.19 per month less than the last standalone renewal quote received from Blue Cross Blue Shield at the October 2012 renewal,” she said.
County commissioners had encouraged all department heads and constitutional officers to keep their budget levels unchanged, or justify any increases, and most all of them presented budgets unchanged from last year.
The budget for Sheriff A.J. Smith’s office, presented by Finance Director Ginger Coulter, will rise by only about $30,000, from $5.18 million to $5.21 million. Coulter said much of this increase was due to a spike in gas prices, and an assortment of other smaller cost increases.
Smith was able earlier this month to secure a $40,000 capital outlay allocation in the current budget year to fund a new control panel for the jail’s doors.
The commissioners said they would try to cover the $40,000 cost of new phone stations, and the $15,000 cost of a new air conditioning unit, in the upcoming fiscal year’s capital outlay budget, and to defer the remainder of a wish list from the sheriff as funds are available.
Two other constitutional officers kept their budgets unchanged, with Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper’s coming in at $650,627, and Clerk of Courts Marcia Johnson asking for $338,646.
Supervisor of Elections Heather Riley secured an increase of less than one-half of 1 percent, from $341,222 to $342.722, while Tax Collector Rick Watson managed a decrease of less than one-quarter of 1 percent, from $606,195 to $604,737.
In terms of county departments, funding for the road department will remain at $1.56 million, while solid waste will stay at $1.07 million. Using funds from capital outlay funds, solid waste will get a new knuckle boom truck, which the county plans to pay cash for to avoid interest charges.
The solid waste grant from the state remains $90,909, the same as it has been for the last few years.
Animal control will continue to get $156,600, but there will be more for parks and recreation, as it will rise from about $562,000 to $568,000. The additional funding is for a new inmate transfer van, with that funding going into the capital outlay fund to repay the cash purchase.
The local support for the county library system will remain at $239,446, with the county set to receive state aid next year in a $84,284 grant.
Funding for the courthouse maintenance remains at $268,509. A shift of personnel between the building department and that of administrative services means that these budgets combined will continue to amount to about $320,000. Planning and zoning will again get $148,179.
Local support for the emergency operations center will be $217,053, a slight increase, while mosquito control, which gets $33,403 in state aid, will get a little more in funding for the county, a total of $177,051. This is because an additional $11,000 was added next year for operating supplies, and another $7,000 to fund a part-time driver during the summer season.
The veterans service office will again receive $62,145, while the county extension office will again get $75,176. Extension agent Erik Lovestrand had asked for another $31,000 to fund a sports utility vehicle for the office, and after careful review the commissioners nixed the idea.
The county health department will again get $49,000, and Weems Memorial Hospital’s ambulance service will again receive a $764,252 subsidy from the county’s property taxes.
The hospital itself also will get half the proceeds of the county’s one-cent sales tax, which will amount to about $1.17 million, as well as another $120,000 from the sales tax for clinical support.
Griffith said the balance in the health care sales tax fund is estimated to be about $4.25 million at the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
Funding for the circuit and county judge remains unchanged at $41,331, while the state attorney’s office will get $21,150, and the public defender $17,208, both the same as last year.
The guardian ad litem program will get a subsidy of $2,790, unchanged, while the soil and water conservation district funding stays constant at $11,405, as does the Dog Island district, which continues to get $9,800 plus a $5,880 tipping free credit.
In terms of non-governmental organizations, the Area Agency for Aging will again receive $51,581, the county humane society $36,278, the Apalachee Center in Apalachicola $24,400, the Gulf County program that handle the transportation disadvantaged in the county $10,077, Franklin’s Promise Coalition $9,765, the Carrabelle Food Pantry $4,883, and Refuge House $4,466.