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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Following nearly a half-hour of discussion, High Springs Commissioners agreed on a Tentative Rate of Ad Valorem Taxes for Fiscal Year 2021-22 at 5.99 mills. On July 22 the Commission set the proposed tentative millage rate at 6.25 mills with the knowledge that it could be lowered, but not raised.

City Manager Ashley Stathatos said the upcoming budget had been prepared at last year’s millage rate of 5.88. She also presented a list of revenue that increased millage rates would generate, ranging from $24,000 at 5.95 mills to $132,000 at 6.25 mills. Stathatos said the City had set the millage rate at 6.25 mills previously.

Some members of the Commission voiced concerns how the increased millage rate might impact some citizens, especially along with the increase in this year’s Fire Assessment fee. The second concern was how to provide for the current citizens as opposed to those who move into the City.

Commissioner Scott Jamison was in favor of setting the rate under 6.0 mills, while Commissioner Linda Jones suggested 6.0, saying that maybe next year “we can do more.” Commissioner Byran Williams said 6.0 mills was an increase, but it wouldn’t be enough to address paving the roads. He echoed Jones’ feeling that next year might be better. He and Mayor Gloria James both were concerned about whether people would be able to pay the additional amount should they raise it above 6.0.

Jamison made a motion at 5.95 mills and said he didn’t want to go to 6.0 mills. His motion died for lack of a second.

Commission Ross Ambrose made a motion to approve 6.0 mills, which would bring in $42,000 more than last year’s millage rate. Jones seconded the motion.

Jamison argued that impact fees would be an additional revenue source for the City, pointing to one development that would bring in $7 million in impact fees.

Ambrose responded that during the City’s strategic planning workshop Jamison had made it clear that there was a difference between what the City needs to operate current facilities infrastructure and the things for the citizens that are here. He stressed that impact fees would pay for the cost of additional people coming into the community, but that’s down the road.

At an apparent impasse, Williams suggested the millage rate be set at 5.99 mills, which is slightly less than the 6.0 mills Ambrose requested.

Ambrose modified his motion to 5.99 mills and it was seconded again by Jones. The motion passed 4-1 with Jamison casting the dissenting vote.

As a follow up to determining the tentative rate of ad valorem taxation, Stathatos presented the proposed budget for FY 2021-22. She included items identified during the strategic planning process. As some of those items were not included in this year’s budget, she indicated those that staff would be pursuing through grants and other funding sources.

The Commission approved Ordinance No. 2021-08 adopting the 2021-22 fiscal year budget unanimously on first reading. Stathatos later said the spending budget amount would be $23,387,923.  

According to Stathatos, there will be updates to the proposed budget that may bump the amount up an additional $11,000, which Commissioners could review and consider on second reading on Sept. 20.

In other City business, in recognition of the 20th Anniversary of Sept. 11, City Attorney Scott Walker read a proclamation into the record commemorating the fateful day. Commissioner Ambrose reminded everyone that a ceremony in recognition of the attack on the World Trade Center Towers would be held at the High Springs Fire Department on Sept. 11 at 8 a.m.

Two brief presentations were conducted during the Sept. 9 Commission meeting. The first was a presentation by Rodney Long, Candidate for the Florida Senate, District 8. He spoke briefly about his history with local governments and talked about why he wanted to run for this office.

Rev. Adam Joy also addressed the Commission to let them know that his preschool is currently at capacity and he would like to partner with the City for a location that might be able to accommodate his group of preschoolers.

He also said he would like to take advantage of a Head Start grant that would fund 20 three- to five-year-old children who come from very low-income families, but needs a larger facility in order to accommodate them. He also talked about the now-closed day care center building and said he would like to continue to see that building be brought up to code so it could be used to serve children in that area.

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