For the 11th consecutive year, the Osceola County’s general fund millage rate will not increase under the county manager’s recommended budget presented to County Commissioners on Monday.
Osceola County’s overall proposed tax rate is decreasing slightly -- from 8.2540 to 8.2429 mils for the general fund, EMS, library and environmental lands.
“Preparation of the FY21 Budget was faced with many uncertainties this year due to the COVID-19 global public health crisis and the resulting economic impact, which was felt not only by Osceola County, but also across the country,” County Manager Don Fisher wrote in his overview of the spending plan. ”The county is experiencing challenges stemming from declines in major revenue sources, impacts to small businesses, declines in tourism, loss of employment, and a greater need for assistance by our residents. As citizens try to cope with the "new normal" of their day-to-day activities, the County had to make changes to ensure the safety and health of not only our residents of Osceola County but the many employees that provide services to our residents.”
County employees have continued to provide services to the public, Fisher wrote, whether from home, in the office or out in the County, such as Road & Bridge, Transportation, EMS, Fire and others. The goal is to ensure our residents continue to be informed and activities/services continue to be provided uninterrupted as much as possible. The budget contains no new positions, though requests for 42 underwent review by the manager’s office.
“While COVID-19 has made confetti of everyone’s budget projections, the county manager has presented a plan that addresses our needs but continues the fiscally sound policies that have allowed us to weather previous economic storms,” said Commissioner Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “The coming fiscal year may be one of our most challenging ever – but I am confident that we will manage our resources in a progressive manner to serve our residents that leads us to short-term and long-term success for our community.”
While the county experienced the eighth year in a row of a positive increase in the valuations, this did not lead to any recommended millage rate increases for FY21. Additionally, the Environmental Land Debt rate is adjusted (downward) to fund required debt service.
While there are increases in the ad valorem, utility and communication services tax revenue, many of the County's other major revenue sources are projected to decline for FY21 as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most heavily impacted are Tourist taxes, Sales tax, State Shared revenues and Gas taxes.
Capital outlay for FY21 includes limited capital projects, but includes vehicles, equipment, computers, and HVAC replacements. The recommended budget continues to support road resurfacing at $12 million through a transfer from the general fund.
Compilation of this year’s budget was a team effort.
“I would like to express my appreciation, as always, to all of our partners (the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, the county attorney, commission auditor, our constitutional officers, etc.). In addition, my staff was again diligent in their efforts to present a recommended budget that maintains service levels, amidst the public health crisis, challenges, and uncertainties resulting from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the leadership of the board and efforts of our partners, I believe we were able to submit a budget for fiscal year 2021 that still provide services to the citizens with minimal impact to taxes,” County Manager Don Fisher wrote.
Residents still have opportunities to give input on the county’s spending plan. Tentative millage rates were set Monday, and can only be lowered – not raised. Staff will continue to make adjustments to the budget, based on direction from the board, in preparation for the first public hearing.
The first public hearing on the tax rates proposed for the budget will be held at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 10. Should telephonic meetings be allowed pursuant to the governor’s authority, the meeting will be held virtually by calling 407-205-0551, conference code 301797. Members of the public will only be allowed to participate telephonically. Should the governor’s order be amended or expire, the meeting will be held at the Events Center at Osceola Heritage Park, St. Cloud Meeting Room, 1901 Chief Osceola Trail, Kissimmee.