Santa Rosa County can't reduce its budget without sacrificing services, Commissioner Don Salter said last week.
"We're going to have to be real careful that we don't get hung up on just 'cut, cut, cut, cut,' " Salter said Aug. 4 at a budget workshop in Milton. "We're going to start seeing quality of life and infrastructure in this county fail, and when it fails, it's going to be 100 times more expensive to rebuild it over time."
County Administrator Hunter Walker has proposed a $77,947,235 operating budget for 2008-2009, more than $3.5 million less than this year's plan. Amendment 1, property tax reform voters approved in January, will cost Santa Rosa County almost $5.4 million in property tax revenue. Growth, mostly in commercial construction, will replace about $1.5 million of that. The rest of the decrease is attributed to a faltering economy, leading to less gas tax being collected locally and less sales tax being returned to the county by the state.
State law allows local governments to assess millage rates sufficient to collect the same amount of property tax as collected the previous year, but Santa Rosa County commissioners made it clear after Amendment 1 passed they would respect voters' demands for lower taxes. Walker recommended not changing last year's 6.0953 millage rate.
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