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Tentative millage rate set by county officials

By Staff | Jul 7, 2009

Lee County residents will not experience a major reprieve in their property taxes, but at least things will not get much worse.

Lee County commissioners unanimously decided on Monday to leave the 2009-10 millage rate the same as the last fiscal year.

The tax rate, $5.34 for every $1,000 of taxable property value, means residents will probably be paying a little less in taxes to the county, but it might not affect their overall tax bill.

With 92 taxing authorities in Lee, the most of any county in Florida, residents will probably face similar numbers from those taxing authorities in their respective areas.

Though the figure established Monday is tentative, it is the maximum rate the county can set, meaning commissioners cannot raise the number only lower it by Sept. 17, the final public hearing date for the millage rate.

There is another public hearing set for Sept. 3.

“They are the maximum rates. When we come back and adopt the rates at budget time, we can lower them but we cannot raise them,” Commissioner Frank Mann said.

Other than Commissioner Brian Bigelow, the members of the BOCC seemed to find little issue with the tax rate.

Bigelow questioned why the rate was not adjusted following the final tax roll numbers, which were released Wednesday.

Preliminary numbers indicated property values might decrease by as much as 25 percent.

When the numbers were finalized at 22.7 percent, Bigelow wanted to know why county staff did not make adjustments to the millage rate.

Staff explained that changes were not made because Lee County is facing a budgetary shortfall in excess of $92 million.

Though that number is lower than the expected $100 million shortfall, Dinah Lewis explained that the figure is still daunting. She has acted as the head of the budgetary process for county staff.

“Even with some of the values improving, it still represents a significant drop in revenues,” Lewis said.

Though Bigelow protested, Chairman Ray Judah assured Bigelow that $92 million is still significant and Lee County is facing a tough financial outlook.

“It’s still a heck of a wallop in revenues,” he said.

The next BOCC budget workshop is Aug. 11.