Commissioners locked in on largest property tax rate cut in 15 years

The general fund is tentatively budgeted at about $185.6 million.

Sumter County commissioners remain locked in on delivering the county’s largest property tax-rate cut in 15 years. 

Commissioners on Tuesday, in the first of two public budget hearings, unanimously approved a tentative 9.1% rate cut, setting the rate at $5.59 per $1,000 of assessable value. The rate is the same as 2016 and represents the biggest decrease since the Great Recession. 

The property tax on a home with an assessable value of $300,000 would be $1,677.

The $313 million tentative budget for 2022-23 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is an increase of about 3.2%, keeping costs in check during a time of high inflation. 

The final tax rate and budget will be approved Sept. 27 following a final public hearing. 

The rate cut is made possible by diversified growth in the county that doesn’t penalize its large industries, said Bradley Arnold, county administrator. 

“It reflects again that we’re booming when it comes to construction activity,” he said. 

In 2021, the county added 3,882 new single-family homes, a 39% increase year over year. The total number of building permits also has increased 35% over the last three years to 20,141 in 2021. 

The general fund is tentatively budgeted at about $185.6 million, a total that includes the second half of funds from the federal COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Act. 

After several workshops, commissioners are committed to using the $25.7 million in federal funds for:

•Water and sewer projects to expand and improve capacity needs. 

•Broadband expansion to bring high-speed internet availability to rural parts of the county. 

•Reimbursement of the $3.05 million spent to purchase 12 ambulances for Sumter County Fire and EMS, pushed for by Commissioner Doug Gilpin.

The general fund budget also includes financing for 53 additional staff for Sumter Fire and EMS needed to operate a new ambulance system outside of The Villages.

Arnold pointed out that funding for the fire departments will be removed from the general fund if the ballot initiative for an independent fire district in The Villages passes in November. That will result in a decrease to the 2023-24 budget of about an estimated $13.6 million.

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or keith.pearlman@thevillagesmedia.com.