Not-to-Exceed Rates Tell Gov’t Budgeting Story

Guest Correspondence

Image from Pixabay

Local not-to-exceed millage rates are being set by local governments all over the state of Florida. It is a peek inside which governments have gone the extra mile with financial oversight since the onset of COVID-19, and also a testament to how hard they worked in prioritizing their budgets.

All local governments in the county are receiving more money this year than last year. They will also see more money next year than this year if they maintain current millage rates because property values are increasing. 

Our overall local tax revenue did not take as bad of a hit this past year as it did in other areas of the country. The elected officials who made sure their taxpayers were financially protected throughout COVID by actively taking steps to trim budgets themselves are now in a better fiscal position today. They not only have enough money for budgeting, they have enough for their priorities and any emergencies created by COVID-19. What happened last year in cutting recurring expenses affects savings in this year’s budget.    

Pro-active governments are intentional in their conservative budgeting, they set parameters at the beginning. They state their goal out loud that they are going to keep the millage rates flat or decrease them. They thoughtfully build their budgets around the premise that they are going to make sure they live within their means while making sure the priorities of the community are addressed. This type of assurance to their constituents, many who are still financially recovering from COVID and facing an uncertain future with the current spike, is immensely important to an economic environment and it positively affects affordable housing. 

For instance, the City of Sarasota just set its maximum millage rate at the roll-back rate, meaning they are actually lowering their millage rate. They were active in cutting and pulling items from the consent agenda to make sure they had enough money for their priorities. They did this while taking on more financial responsibility passed on from governments above them. It was refreshing and the work, and that of the city manager, has not gone unnoticed.

There is a direct relationship to taxes and affordable housing the City of Sarasota understands. Literally every penny counts when you are living on the financial edge. 

The Suncoast United Way reminds us of what those on the financial edge are facing with the hardship study on ALICE families (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed). In big broad letters on its website, officials report, “43% of households in the region struggle financially.” This translates into “..2 out of 5 working households cannot cover basic needs.” If taxes increase, so does the gap of financial stability and those falling into it. The City of Sarasota is not only making sure it doesn’t add to that gap, it is relieving families of that struggle.

Responsible budgeting is actively and aggressively protecting your taxpayers, including those on the financial edge, creating a stable economic environment with your words and actions, and making sure you act now to save for later. The Argus Foundation salutes the City of Sarasota and those governments who are prioritizing their budgets for their taxpayers and working families. Your hard work and steady, early determination has not gone unnoticed. Congratulations.

Christine Robinson is executive director of The Argus Foundation.

Image from Pixabay

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