- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Dear Levy County taxpayer,
It’s budget time again and I write this to pass along some observations from where I sit, to you, the taxpayers of our County. I want to start by thanking the department heads and elected officials for willingly coming forward this year with substantial budget cuts and for having a real understanding of the financial hardships we face. Most went over and above what would have been asked of them, some needed a little more prompting, but very few failed to offer at least something to help. We’re working together, as a group, toward this common cause, however, there will still be a shortfall of 1.4 million dollars and we will need to be creative to make up the deficit. I’m so proud of everyone for being proactive and not reactive during this difficult time.
When I was first appointed to the Commission I promised I would not vote to raise taxes until I felt costs were under control and every year I’ve worked tirelessly to search for every dollar that could be cut. I can honestly say that we’re making headway. We aren’t just rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, we are working together to find ways to plug the hole and keep moving forward. With that being said our finances and job performance will never be 100%, that’s just not the nature of the beast, but I really feel your county officials and employees “get it”. We know it’s tough out there.
For clarification, the County Commissioners (BOCC) has no jurisdiction over how elected officials, such as the Sheriff, Clerk of Court, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector and Supervisor of Elections, spend their budgeted funds. The County Commission only oversees Animal Services, Construction Maintenance, Development, Emergency Management, Extension- County Agent, Landfill, Legal, Library, Mosquito Control, Parks, Planning, Roads, SHIP and Water, Soil Conservation and Transit and Veteran’s Services.
Some of these departments, such as Transit and Emergency Management, are mostly funded through grants and very few of your tax dollars are used to support them. The Commission also assists with partial funding for the Health Department, LARC, Meridian Behavioral Health Care, Nature Coast Business Development and Tourist Development. These funds have also been cut every year for the past 3 years.
Since last year Levy County BOCC has had a hiring and spending freeze in place and employees retiring or moving on have not been replaced. This helped our financial position, leaving us much leaner and able to do more with less. County employees haven’t had raises in 3 years and this year they must contribute 3% of their earnings toward their retirement. Also, county employee health insurance plans are on the table for discussion this year. I don’t know what the outcome will be but it’s good to see that we will be addressing the options.
Take-home cars, cell phones and uniform allowances have been reduced considerably and departments have moved in together to save on rental space. The huge EMS overtime budget has also come down substantially over the past 3 years. We are all serious about giving you, the taxpayer, your money’s worth.
So far, no taxes have been raised and no services have been cut. I hope we can find ways to continue this trend. Our budget meetings and workshops will continue over the next few months and there are some very important issues that will affect all of us. At the top of my list are Fire and EMS assessments. Currently, taxpayers only pay about 50% of the cost and we have an approximate 1.1 million dollar shortfall each year.
The balance is paid by the general fund, which is generated from your property taxes. Although this is your tax money that we use to offset the loss, we can’t keep doing it forever. That well is running dry. Another reason to pay for these services by assessment, rather than property tax, is because every property owner pays. There are no exemptions as in ad valorem taxes and the cost is spread in a more equitable fashion. We have other budget issues that are as important and up for debate in the next few months. I feel hopeful that this year we will make decisions that will not only give us a much leaner government but also a budget that will provide for our needs. Commissioners are not only elected/appointed officials, but taxpayers like you and the financial decisions we make affect us and our families as they do yours. As always, if you have any questions please contact me at email@example.com or at 352 447-5827.
Levy County Commissioner, District 3