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Higher land values keep tax rate same

County staff unveiled a proposed budget Wednesday that boosts the firefighter reimbursement to $10 per call, pays for opening a west Citrus senior center and still keeps the tax rate at 8.5553 mills for the third straight year.

The proposed budget for next year also includes the first payments for two big-ticket items: a $2.5-million building for the property appraiser and tax collector in Inverness and $4.5-million in upgrades to the sheriff's radio system, which also handles the dispatch calls for both police departments, the ambulance system and the firefighters.

"There is no increase in millage, which I think is rather impressive given the number of capital improvement projects we were given to do this year," County Administrator Richard Wesch said.

One mill generates $1 of tax for every $1,000 in taxable property value. A homeowner with a $75,000 home who takes the standard $25,000 homestead exemption, for example, would pay about $428 in county property taxes.

Even with the same millage rate, the county will collect an additional $3-million in taxes because the county's tax base has grown to $5.5-billion, up 6.34 percent over last year. The growth came from $148-million in new construction and $182-million in increased property values, according to the property appraiser's office.

The county will raise $45.7-million in property taxes next year. Grants and the fees residents pay for county services will help cover the rest of the $122-million budget.

Although the tax rate would remain the same, residents could end up with a higher tax bill if their property values have increased over the past year.

The County Commission will hold workshops starting at 9 a.m. on July 25, 26 and 27 in the Masonic Building, 111 W Main St., Inverness, to discuss the proposed budget. If approved, the budget would cover the year starting Oct. 1.

The proposed budget includes:

An increased reimbursement of $10 per call for the volunteer firefighters, up from the $7.50 reimbursement adopted in in 1987.

A second litter patrol crew to help with roadside clean-up efforts.

Funding to run the new west side senior center in the former Disabled American Veterans building in Homosassa.

An additional bus and two more bus drivers for the Citrus County Transit system.

Money to replace about a third of the county's computers, which cannot run newer software programs.

Ongoing support for the Key Training Center, which would receive $20,000.

The proposed budget does not include $30,000 requested by the Youth and Family Alternatives runaway shelter, which will open in Brooksville next month to house runaways from Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.

Walt McCreary, the shelter's program director, said he will ask commissioners at next week's workshop to include funding for the shelter in the county's budget.