Largo Electeds Sweat What Looks Like, but is Not, a Tax Increase
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The intricacies of budget manipulation, calculation - call it what you will - are so arcane and complicated that the wisest course is to just believe Amy Davis, Largo's budget guru.
City Commission members last week couldn't have had a better set of comprehensive and understandable numbers to work with.
It is when one gets to the task of articulating orally how things work that the subject gets confusing - perhaps not to the speaker, but certainly to listeners.
What sounds like a riddle really isn't.
And besides, the bottom line in all this millage rate business that taxpayers should be concerned with is not what the millage number is but what amount they will have to pay.
A tax increase can only perforce be calculated by the bottom line.
It would take a millage rate of 4.8611 (requiring five affirmative votes of the seven commission members) before a taxpayer living in a $200,000 property (2009 value) before that taxpayer paid more than he or she paid in the current fiscal year 2009.
Put in simple terms, Largo operated in the current year (FY 2009) with a millage rate of 3.8448 which was the rolled back rate. The rolled back rate is the rate that produces the same revenue as the previous year. In 2008, the millage rate in Largo was 3.6514.
Property values currently are down 10.5 percent. When property values go down, the millage rate must go up to produce an equal amount of revenue from the previous year.
So, again, millage rates don't mean much. An increased millage rate does not indicate a tax increase. A tax increase is defined by how much is paid. The trick, though, is to get the millage rate down again when economic conditions improve. Otherwise, tax revenue skyrockets.
In the figures Davis presented to the commission, an updated rolled back rate in FY 2010(again, the rate that would generate approximately the same amount of revenue in FY 2009) of 4.3113 will bring in $15,836,000 of ad valorem revenue.
That figure is $444,000 less than the ad valorem revenue in the 2008 budget when the millage rate was 3.6514.
As an indication of just how severely the economy has jolted Largo, to cite just one example, if Largo were to keep the current millage rate (3.8448) in FY 2010, the city's revenue from this source would have dropped $2,158,000 from 2008.
The current situation is grim. The figures show that and more bad news - very likely - lies out in the future.
Largo's budget for fiscal year 2010 now being processed eliminates any raises or adjustments in pay for personnel. A 4 percent merit increase is forecast in 2011 but next year the commission will be facing the prospect of a 35 percent increase in contribution to the police and firefighters pension fund.
But what is most on the minds of the electeds is the political fallout from a perceived tax increase based on an increased millage rate.
None of them - including the three up for election in November, Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioners Gigi Arntzen and Rodney Woods - wants to be bounced from office. All three want to keep their jobs because they need the money.
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