MANATEE -- County Administrator Ed Hunzeker proposed a $527 million budget Tuesday for next year, with property tax rates to remain unchanged.
"Even with the slight increase in this proposal, the county budget is $63.6 million lower than it was in 2007, and property taxes are $65 million lower than in 2007," Hunzeker told the Manatee County Commission. "Property tax rates for county operations have not changed since 2008."
Hunzeker said he would recommend adopting the same rate the county has today: 6.2993 mills for total countywide operating millage.
The millage rate is used to calculate property taxes based on property value. One mill equals $1 of tax on every $1,000 of taxable value. That means a resident who owns a homesteaded parcel worth $150,000 in the unincorporated area would pay $1,036 in taxes after exemptions if the property's value did not increase.
The county has been fortunate its tax base growth exceeded expectations, Hunzeker told commissioners meeting at the County Administrative Center.
The June 1 estimate from the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office's predicted a 6.8 percent increase in taxable value of county properties -- well above the 3 percent figure officials had anticipated, Hunzeker said.
"The additional growth has helped us to fund increasing state mandates and some critical public safety and capital needs," he said.
Jim Seuffert, county financial management director, said the budget calls for increased capital project funding and "more ambitious general government as well."
One of the most important capital projects will be construction of a state-of-the-art regional communications network with a hefty price tag.
The network, which will replace radio equipment dating to the 1980s, is to be designed, built and operated in conjunction with Sarasota County, with each county contributing half of the $30 million to $35 million cost, the Herald has previously reported.
It will allow firefighters, emergency medical personnel, Manatee County, Sarasota County and state officials all to communicate via radio, which they are presently unable to do.
Seuffert recommended using money from citations paid by red-light runners photographed by high-tech cameras to help pay for the new equipment.
"It will help us put a big dent in the money" needed to build the network, Seuffert said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.