SHALIMAR — Okaloosa County officials anticipate keeping the county's existing millage rate in place for the new budget year.
The rate of 3.83 mills, equal to $383 per $100,000 of property value, was adopted by the County Commission two years ago. Fiscal year 2020 starts Oct. 1.
Because of a projected, almost 6.5% jump in property values, the county expects to see an estimated $5.1 million increase in property tax revenue for fiscal ’20, County Administrator John Hofstad told the commission at its budget workshop Monday.
The county’s overall projected new budget totals more than $439 million, or $16.5 million more than the existing budget. About a quarter of the increase would go toward trying to stay competitive with other area governments in terms of employee compensation.
Pending the commission’s final approval, all county employees under the commission’s purview would receive cost-of-living and merit-based pay increases, costing a total of more than $1.4 million. Sheriff’s Office employees also would receive pay increases, costing a total of $2.8 million.
Helping keep the anticipated tax rate the same as the current one is the voter-approved, 10-year half-cent sales tax, which took effect at the start of this year. Revenue from the tax pays for public safety, transportation and stormwater system capital improvements.
Sales tax revenue is estimated at just more than $14 million in the coming year, and the county will also carry forward $6.6 million of unused funds, according to Hofstad.
“Fortunately, because of the surtax initiative, many of (the S.O.’s) critical capital needs are not included in this budget,” Sheriff Larry Ashley said in a recent budget letter to the commission.
For example, he said sales tax money is being and will be spent on an estimated $20 million replacement of old communication system equipment, including radio towers and portable radios. Tax revenue also will be used for an estimated $2.5 million radio-controlled mass emergency-notification system for school resource officers at schools.
The commission’s next budget review workshop is set for 8:30 a.m. next Monday at the County Courthouse in Crestview.