The Niceville City Council made it official – your property tax rates will increase by about eight percent for the next fiscal year. The council voted unanimously on the decision to raise the millage rate from 3.7 mills to 4.0 mills. The millage rate is the rate at which your property is taxed based on its assessed value. The Florida Department of Revenue has a handy guide on millage rates here.
In real dollars, the average homeowner will see an increase in taxes of about $150 per year on a home valued by the property appraiser at $500,000. Of course, that amount varies based on homestead exemptions and other factors.
“This is the first time for me – I’ve been up here 11 years – that we’ve actually increased the [property tax rate],” said Councilman Sal Nodjomian, “I think [City Manager] David [Deitch] made a compelling case of why we needed to close some gaps that have been opened over the last few years.”
The rate increase will help pay for several capital projects, including constructing a new city hall complex and designing and engineering a new police station. According to City Manager David Deitch, the increase will also pay all 200 or so city employees a seven percent pay increase.
In total, the budget has $61.5 million for the city’s various needs – from Police and Fire protection to roads and the community redevelopment area on Bayshore Drive.
Paying to provide those essential services from the previous tax rate has become more difficult over the last couple of years – exemplified by the fact that the city has shored up the last couple of budget years by taking out money from their reserves.
“We’re going to start the process of belt-tightening, hopefully this time next year we won’t have to draw out as much from reserves,” said City Manager David Deitch, “right now, expenses are exceeding revenues. We are looking at how we can reduce operating costs and generate new sources of income and revenue for the city that isn’t taxing our residents. We’re looking to attract new businesses. We’re trying to figure out where we can really make some meaningful cuts to get as lean as possible.”
In addition to shoring up the budget – Deitch said the city had to find a way to make pay more competitive for city employees, so they would remain on the job and not walk away with years of institutional knowledge that helps cost-effectively run Niceville’s governmental operations.
“We have a hard time recruiting talent like everyone else is. Surveys of our employees say that the biggest thing driving retention issues is always salary. So salary is not only a retention issue, but it’s also a recruiting issue because we are all fighting for the same talent, whether it’s cities, or private industry, we’re all fighting for the same talent. Having competitive pay raises is how we are going to stay competitive in this tight job market.”
The next city council meeting is October 10th at the Niceville City Council Chambers on Partin Drive.