Monroe County sets top tax rate, eyes cuts

Monroe County Commission members grumbled about possible new staff positions Tuesday but left a draft budget plan intact while establishing a tax-rate ceiling.

Commissioners could reduce the 2017-18 budget of about $455 million and tentative tax rate during formal hearings in September.

During Tuesday’s special meeting in Key West, county commissioners certified the proposed aggregate millage rate for the 2018 budget year at 3.4149 mills as the top possible rate, required by the state’s Truth in Millage (TRIM) Act.

If passed as is, that would be lower than current millage, but 3.84 percent above the “rollback” rate, or the rate needed to raise the same $80.9 million in property-tax dollars as in the current year. Increasing property values at the newly certified rate would raise a total of $84.9 million.

The rest of the county budget is financed through fees, grants and the like.

County Finance Director Tina Boan said the proposed $808 levy “for countywide services” for a Florida Keys home with a taxable assessed value of $300,000 would be the lowest rate in the state.

Eight new positions for the county staff have been proposed. Of those, four would be covered by user fees while four would be funded by property taxes. Commissioners Sylvia Murphy said she would like to eliminate two of the four spots covered by ad valorem taxes.

“I’d like to remove them all,” Commissioner Danny Kolhage offered.

Staff department directors made their case for a new sustainability manager, a new information technology staffer, adding a County Attorney’s Office assistant and a new Emergency Management planner. No final decisions were reached.

Property taxes levied by Monroe County do not include school taxes, city taxes or special district assessments.

Formal budget hearings will be held Sept. 5 in Key Largo and Sept. 11 in Key West. An additional budget meeting will be held Sept. 7 in Marathon.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206