Fiscal year 2018 Gainesville budget highlights
• $34.1 million total General Fund, 2.8 percent increase over fiscal year 2017
• 1.55 general fund millage rate, which determines property tax rate
• 1.42 percent tax increase to comply with 1924 special tax for Parks and Recreation
• 2.86 total millage, 4 percent less than in fiscal year 2017
• $3.8 million fund balance
• No rate increase for water and sewer
• 3 percent cost of living raise to all city employees
Source: City of Gainesville
Gainesville officials introduced a budget Thursday that technically raises taxes 1.42 percent, thanks to a special tax approved by a few thousand voters in 1924.
The $34.1 million general fund budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts in July, sets a millage rate of 2.86. That’s 4 percent less than current rate of 2.98 mills, but it’s not a full rollback.
A mill is the unit used by taxing authorities to determine the property tax rate. One mill amounts to $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. A homeowner levied a 1 mill tax on a property assessed at $200,000 would pay $200 in taxes.
The general fund rate is being rolled back from 1.63 to 1.55, and the debt service rate is falling from 0.60 to 0.57. When the 0.75 for Parks and Recreation is added to the mix, it brings the total millage rate to 2.86.
The special tax in the books for the past 93 years requires that not less than 0.75 mill nor more than 1 mill be collected annually for Parks and Recreation services in Gainesville.
City Manager Bryan Lackey explained at a city council work session that because a full rollback would result in a rate of less than 0.75 mill, a 1.42 percent tax increase is required to maintain the minimum level.
“We will have to advertise a legal tax increase for Parks and Recreation,” Lackey said. “They are at 0.75 right now, so therefore, we can’t go below that unless we go back to the voters, and we’re not suggesting that by any means. So, we will need to advertise a 1.42 percent tax increase to the voters.”
As a result of the tax increase, the city will be required by state law to hold three public hearings on the budget instead of the usual two. Tentatively, the first public hearing will be after a work session June 1, the second will be during a special called meeting June 6 and the final will be June 20 at the regularly scheduled council meeting.
“Those are somewhat flexible,” Lackey said.
Helping taxpayers’ bottom line is the city’s decision to not increase water and sewer rates in the new budget, according to Lackey.
The city manager said officials also are pleased to offer all city employees “a well-deserved” 3 percent cost of living pay increase.
“It will really help out our employees with some morale … we’re excited with that (raise) being there,” Lackey said.
Lackey added that the city must continue to review its compensation and benefits packages to remain competitive with other jurisdictions and private employers, as recommended in the city’s most recent pay study initiative. He said the city will have to follow the pay study initiative recommendations to retain and recruit new talent to the city workforce.
Mayor Danny Dunagan and council members agreed that city staff put together “a good budget.”