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County Corner August 2016

Aug 12 | County Corner August 2016

For decades, property owners in the county have been paying a separate tax to fund emergency medical services. This tax is based on the value of your property. The county has been considering a different way of distributing the cost of our EMS services. Whether we continue with a tax based on the value of your property or move to an assessment, both are permitted by Florida law — but we can only use one.

The DeSoto Board of County Commissioners held a number of budget workshops this summer, mak-ing the necessary cuts to ensure that property taxes would not increase. At this point, we assume that collections for property tax should remain the same. So let’s talk assessments. An assessment cost for emergency service is spread across all properties rather than calculated by what a property is worth, or its taxable value. Both are collected on the annual property tax bill. The BOCC will hold a public hearing Sept. 12 to decide whether it will eliminate the taxing unit and change to an assessment, or keep things the way they are.

What does the county gain by going to an assessment rather than a tax? Simple, it doesn’t gain anything. The potential change to an assessment is a fairness initiative. The BOCC is considering moving toward an assess-ment to stabilize your property taxes. During the last decade, the value of your home fluctuated severely, as did your property taxes. This assessment will not be based on the value of your home or property; rather, the cost associated with providing EMS services to your door in the event of an emergency. Under the current structure one single-family home could pay nothing, while others pay anywhere from $20 to more than $200 per year. This assessment stops that wide fluctuation from happening.

Under an assessment, all single-family homes pay the same amount. Of course, this means that some homeowners would see a slight increase, while others would see a decrease. In the end, we all pay the same residential charge under this proposed assessment. The assessment would not change just because property values are changing. Just as every residence pays a set amount for fire protection (currently $77 per year) each residence would be assessed a flat rate for EMS services as well.

The county recently had rate study completed for both fire services and EMS. It concluded a need to shift rates by different types of property, and establishing EMS assessment rates by property type. For fire, there is a $10 per year increase to residen-tial properties, and a decrease to other property types. The study considers a number of other factors, including the maximum amount that could be assessed as opposed to the amount currently assessed for the cost of services. Furthermore, the study determines an appropriate growth factor in the cost of services over a number of years (five) and provides a true “maximum” assessment by property type. The BOCC cannot assess more than the maximum, but can always assess less.

As a property owner you will be mailed notices stating the maximum assessment rates at the end of the month. The current budget was created without using these maximum numbers. Again, the Commissioners expect no increase in the overall funding from Fire and EMS assessments from taxpayers.The BOCC also set maximum tax rates for its general operating and law enforcement taxing unit, both slightly higher than the current rates; however, the county budget is put together with no increase in tax rates. While your annual Truth in Millage notice will show slightly higher rates, the BOCC does not plan to raise its taxing rates.

This article is intended to be informative. You are encouraged to visit the county’s website at www.desotobocc.com to read the entire study and learn more about the proposed change.The Board will hold public hearings to adopt the tentative budget and millage rates, and to consider whether the EMS services will continue as a taxing unit or if an assessment rate will be adopted instead. The Board will also adopt the tentative budget and tentative taxing rates. The first public hearing is Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Administration Building, 201 East Oak Street in Arcadia.

Mandy Hines

County Administrator

 

- As published in the Arcadian, August 12, 2016

Contacts

Mandy Hines
County Administrator
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Ph:   (863) 993-4800
Fax:  (863) 993-4809

201 E. Oak Street
Suite 201
Arcadia, FL 34266
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