County Commission OKs 2021-22 budget, tax rate

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By a vote of 3-2, the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners approved a property tax rate slightly lower than that of last year.

Commissioners Jeb Smith and Paul Waldron voted against the motion.

The board OK’d a rate of $6.8147 per $1,000 of taxable value at the second budget hearing on Sept. 21. Last year’s rate was $6.813.

The rolled-back rate was $6.53. That is the rate that, if adopted, would generate the same amount of tax revenue as last year after being adjusted for fluctuations in property values.

Smith said he favored adopting the rolled-back rate rather than the proposed rate.

“We’re confronted with gross inflation, a federal government that is undisciplined in spending,” said Smith. “We’re facing historic levels of national debt and a very uncertain future. I care not to join the fray but choose to support a rolled-back rate. … I just can’t in good conscience vote to increase taxes on our property owners tonight.”

Commissioner Christian Whitehurst offered his reasons for supporting the proposed rate.

“We heard a project in my district that had $80 million in deficient roads,” he said. “All year long, we’ve been addressed with hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvement projects, and we don’t have the money to address them.”

Because the county has seen a 9.27% increase in property values since last year, it can expect to see a $19 million increase in tax revenue in fiscal year 2021-22. Of that, $12.7 million would go to the general fund, which pays for most of the services residents associate with county operations.

By a vote of 4-1 the board approved the budget for 2021-22. Smith voted against it. The total budget is $1.3 billion.

Under the approved tax rate, the owner of a $400,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption could expect to see a tax bill of $2,384.

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