VIERA, Florida Brevard County Manager Howard Tipton today submitted his recommended budget proposal to the Board of County Commissioners for the 2013 fiscal year that balances keeping the tax rate the same while maintaining current service levels.
The $936,778,128 budget represents a reduction of $62.2 million from the current year budget. The reductions are primarily a result of capital projects being completed, grant dollar reductions mainly in the areas of housing and human services, stormwater improvement, transit capital, and reductions to reserves. From 2009 to 2013, the total County budget has been reduced by $268.8 million for an overall reduction of 22.3%.
Current services are maintained for the next fiscal year, although the County says that it is important to remember that many services were reduced over the past 5 years due to financial pressures. For the coming year, 15 vacant positions have been eliminated with no layoffs or personnel impacts. These reductions are across the board (except for public safety) and from 2006 to 2013 the total number of positions cut stands at 452. Staffing now stands at 2001 levels.
Brevard County spokeperson Don Walker said in a press release that there are several areas where the County is making critical investments for the future of Brevard County residents. They include financial support for job creation in the form of cash incentives, tax abatements, and continued support of the EDC of Florida's Space Coast, Inc.
Critical capital investments in equipment include the overhaul and expansion of the County’s 800 MHz public safety radio system. This radio system is the backbone of law enforcement, fire rescue, emergency medical services, and emergency management communications for the County and its municipalities. The current system is 25 years old and needs to be replaced before it reaches the point of failure. The second major capital expense is a helicopter for Mosquito Control that will replace a 44-year-old helicopter that is no longer functional. Brevard has the largest spray area on the eastern seaboard and utilizes 3 helicopters as part of a coordinated land/air assault.
As part of the Board of County Commissioners' focus and funding of critical government services, a number of capital improvement programs (CIPs) are scheduled that will have significant impacts to the community. There are 225 capital projects with a total value of $121,616,783; the majority of these are roads and infrastructure improvements.
The proposed aggregate tax rate of 7.1271, or $7.13 for every $1,000 of taxable property value, is a decrease of 2.41 percent below the current aggregate roll-back rate. The fiscal year runs Oct.1 through Nov. 30.
“Looking at the data, we have found the bottom of this recession and started the slow climb up," Tipton said. "Property values dropped approximately 1% this year and while it is a decline, it is a marked improvement over the more than 14% decline from last year.”
Brevard County has one of the least expensive tax environments in Florida. In a report issued in 2011, the non-partisan organization Tax Watch noted that Brevard was 57th out of 67 counties in terms of the County’s total tax burden. Brevard County is 10th largest by population and 10th cheapest in taxes.
“It’s impressive to me to think about the results and value this community has seen from Brevard County government," Tipton said. "The resourcefulness and efficiency of County employees and our community partners coupled with positive outcomes like low crime rates, job creation and investment, reduced flooding and greater property protection, record levels of riders on Space Coast Area Transit, record level of road miles paved - I’m not aware of any local government in the State achieving better results for their community.”