Citrus County commissioners say tax hike may be needed

Property-Taxes-in-Panama
'We just can’t keep talking about how important this is and not fund it.'

Citrus County’s property tax rate, which has dropped steadily the last six years, could be jumping to pay for high-profile programs that citizens say they want.

During a preliminary budget discussion Tuesday, county commissioners said they generally supported increasing the property tax by nearly a half mill to help fund mental-health services, residential road resurfacing and emergency medical services.

And commissioners say they believe Sheriff Mike Prendergast is preparing a budget increase to bump deputy pay that would require an even higher tax rate.

Property tax rates are set in mills. One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value on property. One levied mill brings in about $10 million in revenue to the county’s general fund, budget director Colleen Scott said.

Board Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr., who rarely supports any property tax increase that exceeds the rate of inflation, said he could back a higher tax so long as funds are restricted for specific purposes.

“I can live with that,” he said.

Commissioner Jeff Kinnard in particular urged a tax increase to fund the resurfacing of residential streets, which commissioners have emphasized as a priority each year even as need outpaces revenue.

“We just can’t keep talking about how important this is and not fund it,” Kinnard said.

Citrus County generally spends a minimum $3 million annually to resurface neighborhood roads, though officials say the amount should be closer to $12 million to get the county onto a 25-year repaving cycle.

During the discussion Tuesday, commissioners found themselves on familiar ground: wanting a sales tax increase to pay for the road resurfacing, yet realizing the difficulty of convincing the public to vote for it.

“It needs to be something the taxpayers will support,” Kitchen said.

A penny sales tax would give the county about $14 million in annual revenue. County Administrator Randy Oliver estimated tourists would cover about a quarter of that.

Commissioners informally agreed that a property tax increase will be needed to cover additional road resurfacing, emergency medical services and the county’s portion of LifeStream Behavioral Center’s Baker Act facility in Lecanto.

They also expect Sheriff Prendergast to seek up to $5 million for higher deputy pay which, if commissioners approve, could bump that tax increase to a full mill, or about 13% higher taxes.

The county has kept the tax rate steady while bringing in more money each year; the taxable value of the county keeps increasing as the housing market booms.

Commissioners are expected to next discuss the budget in July.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


3 comments

  • Mike & Melinda Pettitt

    March 23, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    No way on property tax increase. I just put a mother-in-law suite on top of my detached garage and you raised my taxes from $650 to $1700 just when I was trying to retire. This has blown our annual budget way up and will certainly decrease our standard of living and likely at some point down the road, make us decide to sell. We thought there was a 3% limit per year on our taxes. Had no idea that this would happen.

  • Steven Jenks

    March 24, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    My road isn’t maintained by the county, and they have refused to take over the maintenance of it. So why should I be taxed for something that won’t benefit me. The 6 cent tax that I have been paying on gas went to paving roads that have no one living on. Why hasn’t that stopped?

  • Patrick Grady

    March 24, 2022 at 4:29 pm

    Property taxes just went up $300.00 and you want to raise them again ?!??.
    Looks like it’s time to kick you morons out of office!

Comments are closed.


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