July 24, 2013

City of Live Oak sets proposed millage rates

July 24, 2013 Andrew McGee Suwannee Democrat

Live Oak — The Live Oak City Council held a special meeting on July 18, to set the proposed millage rates for real estate tax.

City of Live Oak Finance Director Janet Parkhurst gave the councilmen a handout of the maximum millage preliminary disclosure rates, which she explained the city would have to decide on and return by August 5. District 3 Councilman Jacob Grantham was not present.

“When we did the budget last year, we agreed that 6.5546 was the millage rate,” said Parkhurst. “This was based on Lamar’s (Live Oak Property Appraiser, Lamar Jenkins) original estimate of the values in town.”

Parkhurst said after October 1, Jenkins will do a final that is no longer an estimate, but the formal dollar amount. She said the City is only allowed to collect the amount of money that the estimate gives and Jenkins is generally conservative. In October, the number usually goes up and Parkhurst said when the total value goes up, the millage rate goes down.

“If you’re at 6.2, we were at 6.5 and it ended up at 6.2119,” said Parkhurst. “That was official. That’s why it changes.”

She said by going forward, taking the 6.2119 and using that to get the same amount of money out of the current estimated value makes it 8.4524 for the current year rollback rate. She added she knew it seemed like a huge jump.

“How do you go up 2.2 mills?” asked District 4 Councilman Adam Prins.

Parkhurst explained that the value goes down because they take what they took in last year and divide it by what the new value is, and that’s what determines what the new mills are. She said when your numbers go down, the millage goes up.

Prins asked her if there were any limitations on the increases, which she said there were, but they are based on the next calculation. She said the maximum millage levy controls the rate so it won’t exceed the current calculation.

“What we come up with on the maximum millage rate alone is 9.7132,” said Parkhurst. “There’s roughly 1.3 percent difference between the two of them.”

Prins rhetorically asked the difference between the 8.4 and the 6.2 and both he and Parkhurst said 2.2.

“But, you still have to have the 8.4 to get the same amount that you did at 6.2,” said Parkhurst.

Prins said he understood the rollback rate, but that on paper it seemed a lot worse than it was. He added, he hoped the explanation would be thorough for citizens to understand the rollback rates bring in the same amount of money as the previous rate and that millage wasn’t raised for extra income. Parkhurst said the decision that night was only preliminary and was subject to change.

“It’s not how you’re going to tax them,” said Parkhurst. “My recommendation is that you do the 9.71 because you can always come down. Whatever number you call is the maximum.”

She said she’s heard conversations of the county raising their millage and suspected they were having the same conversation.

District 1 Councilman John Yulee asked if they went with the maximum rate tonight, could they lower it in October once the final reading came out and was official? Parkhurst said it would automatically be lowered because the maximum would be calculated against the estimated value. When the actual amount comes out, the mills will be adjusted accordingly.

Once there was clarification on no limitation on what the amount could be lowered to, and the amount couldn’t exceed the maximum rate, Prins asked council what they wanted to do for the 2013-14 fiscal year for millage rates. District 2 Councilman Bennie Thomas proposed they go with the 9.7132 and it was seconded by Yulee. The council voted unanimously for the maximum millage rate.

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