Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County's Budget Is 'Getting Tighter'; St. Johns Official Tells Ponte Vedra Coalition That Property Tax Revenues Projected Down

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County's Budget Is 'Getting Tighter'; St. Johns Official Tells Ponte Vedra Coalition That Property Tax Revenues Projected Down

Article excerpt

Byline: Shakaya Andres

PONTE VEDRA BEACH - In the upcoming fiscal year, St. Johns County is facing a 10 percent reduction in its property tax revenues, budget officials told the Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition this week.

That reduction would translate into an $11.6 million decrease, Jesse Dunn, assistant director of the county Office of Management and Budget, said Monday.

The grim news, projections based on the county's preliminary budget report, follows several years of county budget reductions.

"It's getting tighter as things progress," Dunn said. "We are coming up on another year of devaluation."

Since 2008, the county has seen a 28 percent decrease in property tax revenue and $100 million has been sliced from the budget over the past four years, he said.

To make up for the shortfall, county officials are proposing several options including increasing the property tax rate by 0.25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to raise $3.9 million for the general fund, or a 1-cent county infrastructure sales tax.

"If we don't get the millage rate increase, there could possibly be a reduction of 27 percent in expenditures," Dunn said. "It's not meant to be a scare tactic. I'm not saying if you don't give us the millage increase we're going to cut all your services."

Because property valuations vary from market to assessed values and some properties' taxes are limited by homestead protection and others aren't, it's difficult to establish how the average property owner would be affected in the coming year, Dunn said.

This fiscal year, the County Commission passed the final budget at $582 million, about 4.9 percent less than the $612 million budget for 2009-10.

Significant revenue growth is not anticipated prior to 2015, and the county's budget has steadily decreased in recent years by $122 million, or 17 percent. In 2007, the budget was $732.7 million. In 2008, it decreased $25.7 million to $707 million. …

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