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Sumter County Council might raise taxes for deputy pay

Proposed increase for sheriff’s office presented on Tuesday at Sumter council meeting online

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 5/30/20

Sumter County Council is proposing a tax increase to fund salary raises for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

Council has been meeting once a week since May 12 to discuss the fiscal year 2021 budget, and they did so again on Tuesday before …

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Sumter County Council might raise taxes for deputy pay

Proposed increase for sheriff’s office presented on Tuesday at Sumter council meeting online

Posted

Sumter County Council is proposing a tax increase to fund salary raises for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.

Council has been meeting once a week since May 12 to discuss the fiscal year 2021 budget, and they did so again on Tuesday before their regular council meeting, which was held virtually.

Currently, the county has a $50,742,592 spending plan proposed with an estimated $50,581,084 in revenue, equaling a current deficit of $161,508 left to balance before the budget is approved. At this point last year, the county had $269,082 left to balance and ended up passing a balanced $51.9 million budget for 2020 last June.

Of the total spending throughout the county proposed for next year, personal services, which covers wages, payroll taxes and fringe benefits, is projected to cost $32,283,600, while other operating expenditures across all agencies are projected at $18,458,992.

The proposed 2.5-mill increase, which was based on a wage study conducted for Sumter County Government, was publicly presented on Tuesday during the regular council meeting.

According to Joe Perry, communications coordinator for the county, the proposed millage increase would impact real property - land and any permanent structures or improvements - and auto.

A millage rate is the formula used to calculate taxes. With owner-occupied residential being taxed at 4%, 1 mill equals $4 per $100,000 in assessed value, so 2.5 mills equals $10. Second residence and commercial is taxed at 6%, so 2.5 mills equals $15.

The proposed 2.5-mill increase is projected to bring in about $722,000 in revenue for the county, which Perry said is still an estimate at this point. The proposed increase is being promoted as a way to fund wage increases for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, which has been an ongoing concern to its employees and community members. Deputies started attending council meetings in November 2019 to voice their support for salary increases to keep Sumter competitive with other county law enforcement agencies.

Council members have voiced support for the pay increase to the department but have noted there's not extra money available to the county to pull from.

The last time Sumter County increased its millage rate was in 2016 when it went up by 1.9 mills.

Along with the mill increase, the county assessor is projecting a 1.5% growth of the county's tax base, which is a conservative estimate, according to Perry. The current millage rate for the county is approximately 288, which is subject to change based on revaluation of all revenue streams.

"Each year during this time period, we spend a lot of time working to balance the budget," Sumter County Administrator Gary Mixon said. "We're making conservative projections based on numbers that could fluctuate, but we're working diligently to have our revenues meet our expenditures and have a balanced budget in place before the next fiscal year begins in July."

The county also is proposing an increase in fire district millage rates.

The county has an urban and rural first district. According to Perry, the proposed millage increase is normal based on economic growth and could provide additional funds for increased expenses associated with fire protection in Sumter County.

It is being proposed to increase both fire districts' millage rates by .4 mills, according to the draft budget. The increase is expected to generate $46,092.

When it comes to new funding requests compared to this year's county budget, three agencies - the Planning Commission, the Building Department and the Disabilities and Special Needs Board - requested more funding for next year's budget.

It is being recommended that two of the three agencies receive the requested funding, according to the budget documents. The Disabilities and Special Needs Board is asking for $50,000, and county finance staff working on developing the budget are not recommending to approve the request.

According to Perry, this is the first time the Disabilities and Special Needs Board has made a new request for county funding. Budget documents show it requested no money last year. Perry said the county is not accepting any new requests because of the recent economic environment brought on by the impact of the coronavirus.

The other agencies' requests are smaller funding requests. According to the May 26 documents, the Planning Commission is poised to get the $2,365 it is asking for, as is the Building Department for its $13,033.

Council unanimously approved the first of three readings needed to approve the budget and millage rate.

First reading was also approved for the county's annual general obligation bond, which funds capital projects.

The bulk of the proposed $3.5 million capital outlay bond is allotted toward public safety needs. It includes 15 vehicles for the sheriff's office and equipment and an ambulance for Sumter County EMS. The Sumter County Sheriff's Office Detention Center is poised to receive funding for radios and communications, 250 rip-proof mattresses and a medical exam table.

Budget documents show there's a request for a new compactor at the landfill, which costs $747,871, $500,000 of which is being proposed to come from the Solid Waste and General Fund balances.

Road User Fees is being proposed as a source of funding for equipment requested by Public Works.