Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

North Port, on Upswing, Looks to Lower Tax Rate

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

North Port, on Upswing, Looks to Lower Tax Rate

Article excerpt

NORTH PORT -- For the first time since the real estate decline, Sarasota County's largest city is seeing an economic upswing.

And city leaders say they don't want to jeopardize the recovery with an increase in government spending.

The City Commission voted this week to leave the city's tax rate unchanged when Truth in Millage notices are sent to property owners next month.

But the city plans to go further.

North Port's new budget is based on an even lower tax rate, called a rollback rate, which Pete Lear, the city's finance director, expects the commission to approve. If the commission follows through, the city's tax rate will fall from the current 3.62 mills to 3.45. One mill is $1 of tax per $1,000 of taxable property value.

What's enabling North Port to lower its tax rate and finance a budget roughly equal to this year's is the fact that, for the first time since 2006, the taxable value of property increased in the city, rising by roughly $149 million. New homes and businesses have enhanced the tax base.

"It's certainly looking better than it has in years," Lear said of the 6.5 percent increase in taxable property values. "But the City Commission made clear in budget workshops that they don't want to put any more on homeowners than is absolutely necessary. That's why they are looking at a rollback rate."

Reflecting the city's austerity, the budget provides no pay raises for employees and keeps spending close to flat on many services. It marks the third year in a row that general employees have gone without a raise.

If North Port approves the advertised rate, city taxes for the owner of a home valued at $149,000 will be about $277. If the city approves the rollback rate, annual taxes for such a home would be $264.

A final decision will come after public hearings in September.

One area that the budget focuses on is reducing the drain on the city's reserves. …

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