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12% Property Tax Increase and Reserves Will Close $4.6 Million County Budget Gap

| July 9, 2012

The county’s budget crown is a little thornier this year. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission this morning agreed in principle to raise the property tax 12 percent and use a combination of reserves and other one-time dollars to close what, going into the budget season, had been a gaping deficit of around $7 million. A continuing drop in property values (over 6 percent this year), some accounting issues and the normal demands on government services, such as the need for new firefighting equipment, had resulted in the gap.

Budget crunchers assumed that the property tax would be raised from its current rate of $6.22 per $1,000 in taxable value to $6.68 just to stay even with the amount of property tax revenue generated last year. That still left a gap, in part because operating expenses are increasing, the county is planning on a $500,000 design for an expanded jail, and the county wants to award a one-time, $500 bonus-type cost-of-living increase to employees making $60,000 or less (in combined salary and benefits; more than 500 employees are in that category).

The tax increase will be equal to last year’s, but will be felt more steeply by property tax payers because last year’s increase was erased by a larger drop in property values, and by even steeper drops in school taxes. So the overall tax bill in Flagler County saw a cut. This year will very likely be different, as half the county’s tax increase is in addition to the adjustment for falling property values.

Craig Coffey. (© FlaglerLive)

Take a $200,000 house with a homestead exemption. County Administrator Craig Coffey’s house on Trail Run in Flagler Beach fits the bill. Its general fund county tax bill last year was $927, based on a taxable value of $148,989. Based on today’s proposal, the tax rate would increase by almost 79 cents per $1,000, resulting in a tax increase of $117, for a total county bill of $1,044. Fortunately for Coffey (or unfortunately, depending on one’s perspective), the house’s value has fallen to $187,455, so he’ll only be taxed on $137,455, once the $50,000 homestead exemption is accounted for. The actual bill would then be $962–a net increase of only $35–nothing that will break the bank of a homeowner in Coffey’s tax bracket.

The increases at the lower end of the spectrum will be more modest. Take, for example, Commissioner Nate McLaughlin’s homesteaded home on Princess Rose Drive in Palm Coast. It was valued at $99,000 last year, more along the lines of the typical home in Palm Coast these days. Its taxable value was just $49,000. Its general fund county tax bill was $305. Based on McLaughlin’s decision today, that tax bill would rise to $343, an increase of $38–based on last year’s assessments. Again, luckily for McLaughlin, the house has been devalued, so its taxable value this year will be $44,766, and the net county tax bill will be $313, a very modest increase of $8.

Still, county commissioners, especially in an election year, will have to contend with claims based more on emotion and distortion than math. And they’ll have to explain the one-time raise they’re giving most employees, a raise Commissioner Milissa Holland questioned unsuccessfully. “I guess I’m struggling with this because when you’re talking about affecting the level of service by letting some employees go, and then at the same time, adding that into the equation, I just—” Holland didn’t finish her thought.

“What I’m struggling with is that under all these options we’re going to have a significant millage increase,” Commissioner Alan Peterson said, after hearing Coffey outline four options to close the budget gap. “As much as I’d like to do it for the county employees, I haven’t heard anyone except the city of Bunnell talking about any kind of an increase for their employees, either the other cities or the school. I’m not sure this is the time to do any kind of an adjustment, as much as I’d like to. The timing is terrible.”

Coffey conceded that the timing is terrible. “It’s critical to try to keep the people that you have because it’s very expensive to replace them,” he said of the 600-some employees on county payrolls. The one-time raise would have cost the county $360,000. As a compromise, commissioners agreed to cut out the 87 county employees (including those in the sheriff’s office and other constitutional offices) making more than $60,000. They would have otherwise been in line for a $250 bonus. That reduced the cost to $281,000. Commissioners looked to reduce the number further by including only those employees making $60,000 when retirement and health benefits are factored into that figure, too (as opposed to those making a base salary of $60,000).

In other gap-closing measures, the sheriff’s office had agreed to cut costs by $1 million. But one of the most visible effects of the budget cuts will be a reduction, twice a week, of evening hours at the Flagler County Library. Two hours on two evenings will be cut. The retirement of an executive assistant and the elimination of a planner’s position also enabled a saving of $150,000.

Aside from the property tax increase, which would generate $2.3 million, commissioners agreed to use $800,000 in reserves, significantly reducing the county’s reserve pot to between $3 and $4 million. An additional $1.8 million in carry-forward cash (which would have normally gone into reserves) will also be used to close the budget gap, as will one-time funding sources of $1.38 million.

Peterson wanted to reduce the hit on the property tax by eliminating the purchase of a fire truck. Other commissioners disagreed./ The $225,000 expense remains in the budget. So will a $500,000 expense to design a jail expansion, even though it’s still not clear what sort of jail commissioners are looking for.

None of those numbers will be written into tax bills until commissioners meet again to refine them later this month. The property tax may yet fall, based on further discussions and revenue projections.

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32 Responses for “12% Property Tax Increase and Reserves Will Close $4.6 Million County Budget Gap”

  1. question says:

    They had me until:

    * commissioners agreed to use $800,000 in reserves, significantly reducing the county’s reserve pot to between $3 and $4 million.

    * An additional $1.8 million in carry-forward cash (which would have normally gone into reserves) will also be used to close the budget gap, as will

    * one-time funding sources of $1.38 million.

    Times are way to volatile to leave so little in ‘the cookie jar’… for that rainy day/season/year[s].

    Don’t do it!

    Could possibly check ratio of CEO pay to worker pay; salary + benefits…appropriate for our city size and balance sheet.

    Interesting description of ceo to worker pay:

    p.s. Also important to not to return our fed government back into ‘trickle down’ theory hands. If that theory worked, we wouldn’t have almost spontaneously combusted, gone flat busted broke in 2008:

    The collapse of large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and downturns in stock markets around the world. In many areas, the housing market also suffered, resulting in evictions, foreclosures and prolonged unemployment. The crisis played a significant role in the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in trillions of US dollars, and a downturn in economic activity leading to the 2008–2012 global recession and contributing to the European sovereign-debt crisis.
    The bursting of the U.S. housing bubble.

    Dems left a surplus, R’s turned that surplus into catasrophe. Do not return the keys to them.

  2. local user says:

    My property tax went up last year by over $100 a year. Now they want to increase it again. I cant afford them now. Also no one is getting $500 cost of living increases, why should the city workers. it is time people open their eyes to how far down hill this county has been moving. Each choice our elected officials are making are putting negative impacts on this county. Fixx the unemployment/ lack of jobs and maybe people will start moving back to the area and taxes can be collected from many instead of the ones that have been fighting this out.

  3. bill harvey says:

    a bonus in this day and age, my wife is a RN and has not receive a pay raise in four years.

    • Magnolia says:

      Mr. Harvey, I understand. However many here have not had a pay check in nearly that long. When you are millions in the hole, a pay raise should not even be discussed.

      We badly need new leadership here in Flagler County.

  4. Ridiculous says:

    The county employees haven’t had a raise in 4 years either. On top of that they were forced to contribute to their retirement. Health benefits were also decreased while their premiums increased. BUT the cost of living has continued to sky rocket.

    I will happily pay my $8 a year tax increase if it means that the firefighter/paramedic/EMT who works his butt off to protect mine finally gets a 3% raise, and that Sheriff who has to pick up a dozen overtime shifts a month just to pay his bills and put food on the table can finally take 1 overtime shift off a month to watch his children grow up or attend one family function!

  5. me says:

    my wife is a RN also and she has revieved 3 raises in the last 4 years . Im not complaining there but its all performance based at her hospital. Also if you look at it the private sector tends to make more money. I am willing to pay an extra 100 or so more a year to help people keep their jobs. I moved up here from Ormond so im use to paying the higher taxes. My taxes are about 1200 less a year here so its about time they get with the times. I dont want to see a big increase like everyone else but whats $ 100 or so.

    • Magnolia says:

      Dear me: While I tend to agree with you, what is not taken into account is the fact that many here have lost everything, their homes, jobs, everything.

      $100 may not seem like much to you, but it is the WORLD to these people. It is all they have. As long as we have people struggling to survive, you cannot be serious about raises unless others are taking pay cuts. The community cannot financially support this.

      These people who want more money are going to have to move and take their chances somewhere else until this community is back on its feet again.

    • Henry says:

      Well, then send more tax dollars as a charity and don’t expect others to do it.

  6. JGA says:

    Thank god election time is around the corner, some of these bumbling idiots have to go, I disagree with not giving the worker bees a little pay increase, it is not there fault. The higher ups should get a pay decrease to account for it.

  7. susan says:

    I have lived here for 11 yrs. years and I seen such waste in spending it is not funny. I too, cannot afford my taxes as they are now. Not with 1 income . I guess the bank will be getting the keys. We need business (manufacturing) to come to Plam coast. Everytime the city has has the opportunity they turned businesses away. If, they had accepted this businesses then our taxes would not have to raised. I think it is time to clean house in our local goverments. People wake -up. Otherwise Palm coast will be a Ghost town!!!

    • Biker says:

      The City of Palm Coast isnt raising your taxes 12.9% Flagler county is. I agree we need a change in government but at least lay the blame where it belongs. It belongs at the Taj Mahal on 100 in Bunnell. Coffey needs to go as does Peterson and anyone else that has disenfranchised voters of this county.

  8. notasenior says:

    This news should surprise no one. This is the county that built a palace for its offices, a multimillion dollar county courthouse that doesn’t even have a law library, and never saw a spending project that they didn’t like. Yet where is their long-term plan to upgrade the equipment for essential services? I’ve never seen so much wasteful spending!

  9. Reality Check says:

    They complain about property values hurting their budget, what did they do with all the excess money they had over the 7 year boom in Flagler county? they spent it like greedy Lotto winners, never putting any away for a down time. Well you are right election time should bring a clean house in my opinion.

  10. tulip says:

    @REALITY CHECK According to the article, some reserve money that was “put aside” was used, so obviously they don’t spend every cent the county gets and are using some of it for this “down time” as you described it.

    • Reality Check says:

      Yes, they do; some day take a look at you COUNTY goverment and see how many Relatives of GOOD OL BOYS were hired in the booming yeras. More families work for Flagler County than you can shake a stick at, they lived fat off of Palm Coast before it became a city. The problem now is they cannot manage, there is no one there that has the skills or courage to strat the down sizing proccess. Trimming the workforce is one of the first things you do when you cannot meet your budget, but know one wants to terminate a family member. It is time Flager came out of the Good old boy mode and started acting loke a real municipal Goverment body or they may just join the growing list of goverments going out of business.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In the article, it is stated that the commissioners complain about property values hurting their budget, what did they do with all the excess money they had over the 7 year boom in Flagler county?

    They need to hold the line on the tax rate and find ways to cut

  12. Magicone says:

    While property values keep dropping, property taxes are going up 12%. This makes no sense. Our largest employer in the county is the government, next comes the school system. What also doesn’t make sense is owning property in Flagler county. Worst mistake I ever made was purchasing a home in Palm Coast. The 7 year boom that I got caught up in is over; has been for awhile now. The leaders (and I use that term loosely) of Flagler county as well as the city of Palm Coast are all way overpaid. That is the reason our property taxes are going up !! I am selling and getting out while the getting is good. There are no jobs and a large lack of leadership.

    • some guy says:

      .” Our largest employer in the county is the government, next comes the school system.” thats not the two largest it is all one and the same its Government jobs. yes we need more privet jobs but with the two big dogs always trying to be the top dog 9PC and County) we may never see them come.

  13. Lefty Loon says:

    “While property values keep dropping, property taxes are going up 12%. This makes no sense. ”

    This makes perfect sense only when the government does not want to cut costs below the previous years budget. Inflation is a factor in budgets. The problem is the government is so big now and growing rapidly that it is a monster that will demand more and more through mandated costs like pensions and cost of living increases.

    As long as property values decline and costs for service increases, the next step is this;

  14. roco says:

    Have these idiots ever heard of live within your means???? Election time is coming and I hope there will be a record turnout and send them packing and gone..

  15. palmcoaster says:

    These county commissioners bowing to the administrator Coffey are all out of their mind. That tax increase will cost me $504 a year in my house; and yes I have a nice house, that yes is paid for with the hard labor of all my life making an honest living and I fully resent them further taxing me, to waste.
    Raises for county employees…? give me a break! They should be happy to have a job….they may go if a raise do not materialize, as Coffey threatens? Let them and I wish them lots of luck finding a better or new job. My kid was laid off “by the almighty corporation” and other than help him, I will be forced to fork $504 more, so these county employees get a raise and also they can build a new Taj Mahal called jail? People is selling and trying to sell their homes in my street over financial difficulties and these bozos we sat in the BOCC are trying to squeeze more blood from us? What about some fiscal responsibility for a change? Do we have a recall provision in the Flagler County Charter? We are overpaying this county and they squander it. Did everyone read the 2010 public records salaries for Flagler and Volusia Governments?.Get acquainted: Enter Flagler County on institution search.
    Flagler, a county that has barely 96,500 tax paying souls, has a “high paid armada” that rivals with Volusia county that counts half a million tax paying souls to foot the bill.
    The BOCC serves about 20% of Flagler and charges us double taxes than we pay to our cities, no matter how much they denied it! What a ripoff!

  16. LEFTY LOON says:

    look out below………here we come Flagler County is well on the way to this unless somebody starts to show some courage and budget properly and redefine what “normal” services are.

    Yesterday and ambulance stopped on my street and along with it came a firetruck. One was as big as my garage and the other was as big as my house. This was a medical call that turned out to be a false alarm. Who is the LOON here.,0,5646419.story

  17. lul says:

    Cut everyone on the people’s take 20% now… The worker ants can no longer care for the fat lazy grasshoppers

  18. palmcoaster says:

    I have notice also…for one accident show up 3 or 4 FCSO cruisers and three or more fire dept. and paramedic ambulances…what a waste of our ever more hard to earn taxes. Regarding those families working in the county some of them make 110,000 and over per couple.

  19. bill harvey says:

    i see flagler county as a loser in the economy, i understand that they turned down a lot of businessesthat wanted to move here. there is just no work here and that is why it is not going to make a come back. ask the young generation this question “are you going to come back to flagler county after graduating from college” I am happy to report that my daughter is going back to NY after having her masters for two years and not finding a job. she has been offered a job in NJ 70+ with all benifitsand she said dad i am not coming back, i am happy

  20. julian bergman says:

    Somebody is not doing their job-Craig Coffey. he should be looking at the budget all year long so he won’t be surprised at budget time. A 6% increase over the roll-back rate is outrageous. This does not even include new revenue from new construction/new assessments new to the tax roles for 2012. Homeowners whose assessments have increased this year will be hit twice: increased assessment and a substantial millage rate increase. Many homes are assessed at alot more than the examples often used-$100,000. Many homes are assessed cat 200,000, 300,000 and more. Again it looks as though the increase in Soc. security will be nonexistent. Adjustments should be made in expenditures throughout the year, if necessary.

    Do these Commissioners and administrators really have any idea how to run a county?

  21. goodbye palm coast says:

    I am glad I left, I feel bad for the people of Flagler County, the worst pay in the state, you can’t make a decent living, no one wants to pay you for what you are worth. Its a fuedal society, the rich get richer and the poor get assitance and the middle class is screwed. I am back up north, I left a $12.50 hour job (no raise in 4 years!)to making $22 a hour with union protection, and the possibility to make more. I have the chance to retire with a pension, 401k, and social security. Not in Flagler County just social security.
    People of Flagler County get out when you can because nothing will change, the elections will not solve the problems just the same of song and dance. Good luck, I also still own property in Flagler Coounty and will be getting rid of it as soon as posible.

  22. Magicone says:

    Does anyone; or is it just me that would like to know what happened to the millions of $’s in IMPACT FEES? Someone should explain to the citizens of this county where all that money went or whos pocket it is in !!

    • Concerned Tax Payer says:

      If the tax collector’s office and the property appraiser’s office would stop paying their employees 40 hours and only make them work 37.5 that would save some money. Also, if the tax collector would stop giving out paid vacation time to all of her employees for these contests such as (feed flagler, bus stuff and in the past for selling the most vanity plates), that would also save money, She gave out two weeks to all of her employees in her first term and this past year when she found out that the Sheriff was running against her for feed flagler she bribed all of her employees that who ever collected a certain amount would get two days off with pay and who ever collected the most would get a whole week off with pay. WHO IS PAYING FOR THIS? The taxpayers are. Just for her to have her name in the spot light. And we wonder where our tax dollars are going. Days off for birthdays and days off for Christmas shopping days. Her assistant has had about five months of the six months worked so for this year. Who keeps track of her time off and how many vacation time and sick time she has used. I am most posotive she has not earned that much time in the little time she has been there. If you are not a friend or a friend of a friend or a family member of a friend, you will not get a job at the tax collector’s office. The tax payers need to sit back and take a look at where our tax dollars are going.

  23. gerald says:

    flagler county commisioners can put out bids for some services provided privatize = no benefits please stop asking us for more money our pockets have been picked.

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