After a summer full of budget workshops, the Manatee County Commission will formally adopt the 2016-17 county budget Sept. 15.
The public will have the first of two opportunities at 6 p.m. Thursday to speak about the tentative $571 million net budget. The commission will adopt the budget in the second public hearing at 6 p.m. Sept. 15. Both hearings are in the first floor commission chambers of the county administrative center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
During the public hearing, the commission will also formally set the millage rate, which is expected to remain at the same rate it has been since 2006. The county millage rate is 7.0435, which includes the .6109 mill for the unincorporated municipal services tax.
In the budget, the county commission voted to spend $1.2 million from reserves for public safety, including additional personnel for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. But by doing so, it exacerbates the potential budget deficit coming in 2018, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said last month.
“We thought we had a $2.8 million problem in ’18,” he said. “Now we have a $4 million problem in ’18.”
An additional $2.2 million in budget items, which had been flagged by the commission for future discussion, are expected to be funded through revenue sources such as grants and fees.
“We believe that with the passage of the sales tax, we will be able to deal with issues going forward in fiscal year ’18, ’19 and beyond,” Hunzeker said. “We don’t think the property tax increase is the way to go.”
But should voters not approve the half-cent sales infrastructure sales tax this November, the county commission would either have to cut spending or raise property taxes, according to Hunzeker.
At the end of fiscal year 2017, the general fund portion of the budget stabilization fund, which is where the potential deficit in 2018 exists, will now have $662,355 remaining, which is a decrease from the $10.4 million projected left in the fund at the end of this fiscal year.
“We’ve got to stop this dependence of dipping into the reserve,” Hunzeker said.