September 28, 2023

Belt-tightening measures will avert Sumter County firefighter layoffs, County Administrator Bradley Arnold advised commissioners Tuesday night time.

Commissioners gave tentative approval to a 2023-24 property tax charge of about $5.19 per $1,000 assessed valuation and a proposed $386.8-million price range. Last price range adoption is scheduled Sept. 26 after one other public listening to. The fiscal yr begins Oct. 1.

By casual consensus, commissioners additionally directed Arnold to take steps towards creation of a dependent hearth district for the Villages Public Security Division (VPSD). A dependent district would supply the VPSD larger management over its funds whereas remaining below county authority.

The VPSD gives hearth and rescue companies in The Villages whereas the Sumter County division gives service in Wildwood exterior The Villages, smaller cities and rural areas.

Sumter County Fireplace Chief Rob Hanson stated final month he might need to put off 30 firefighters after commissioners rejected substantial will increase proposed for hearth evaluation charges that had been strongly opposed at a public listening to.

“There are not any layoffs within the price range,” Arnold stated, including that he has labored with union and division officers to make up the deficit attributable to the misplaced hearth evaluation charges. 

To save lots of jobs, Hanson stated firefighters have agreed to forego an 8.7 p.c cost-of-living enhance for county workers in addition to some coaching stipends.

The fireplace chief additionally stated he’ll scale back staffing to 2 or three firefighters per automobile, down from three or 4.

Final week, American Medical Response (AMR) introduced it might finish a transition contract on the finish of September, eradicating employees and three ambulances. AMR will proceed to lease 4 ambulances to the county.

Hanson stated he’ll purchase three used ambulances from Citrus County to switch the AMR items till Sumter County has ambulances delivered.

Making a dependent district for the VPSD would permit it to levy taxes and function with its personal board. County commissioners would retain remaining approval over the district’s tax levy and price range. Establishing the district would require passage of a county ordinance.

Commissioner Jeffrey Bogue stated he supported the dependent district, however steered that commissioners assemble a wide selection of candidates for the governing board.

Final yr, voters rejected creation of an unbiased district for the VPSD that may have been freed from county management.

Subsequent week, commissioners are anticipated to approve a $1 enhance within the present $124 hearth evaluation charge, the utmost allowed below a present cap. In addition they will take into account an ordinance to permit the VPSD to make use of restricted capital income to handle the operational deficit. Charges additionally might be imposed for annual hearth inspections for companies and dangerous supplies responses.

The $386.8-million price range is down a July expenditure estimate of $441 million, which included the upper hearth evaluation charges.

Arnold stated the tax charge of $5.19 per $1,000 assessed valuation, down from $5.59 this yr, is the bottom charge ever for the county. It’s barely lower than the rolled-back charge, the quantity wanted to gather the identical income because the prior yr besides for brand spanking new building.

Sumter County is anticipated to gather $101.3 million in whole property tax income in 2023-24, up from $95 million this yr.