MANATEE -- After only two people turned up Thursday to speak at a public hearing, the Manatee County Commission tentatively approved a $540.8 million budget with no increase in the tax rate.
The 2014-15 budget is 2 percent higher, or $10.8 million more than last year's $530 million budget, county officials said. The document includes Port Manatee's budget of $10.5 million.
The board has adopted tentative millage rates the same as last year's.
Millage rates for taxpayers in unincorporated areas were set at 7.0435, while municipal residents are 6.4326. One mil equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.
Residents will have a last chance to comment before the commission takes a final vote during a public hearing set for 6 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Manatee County Government Administrative Building.
New growth in the county generated most of the additional revenues of $1,255,843, said Jim Seuffert, county director of financial management.
"Overall tax rates are not increasing," he said. "The largest portion of additional property tax proceeds
will be used for increased public safety costs, such as (emergency medical services) and emergency communications."
Following the recession, taxable property values have slowly grown to $25.9 billion, however, Seuffert said the number is still well below 2007, when property values hit $34.4 billion.
The recession years were challenging because revenues that support government fell, and officials were forced to dip into reserves, which they are again depending upon this year, Seuffert said.
In about three years, use of reserves should no longer be necessary, he added.
The county sheriff's portion of the tentative budget was $104.9 million, officials said.
Linda Neely, one of the speakers, complained there's a "disconnect" in the United States because the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
She asked county leaders to cut taxes a little bit.
"Peoples' cost of goods are going up, up, up," Neely said.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.