BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Free Press Sta


MONROE COUNTY — The Monroe County Commission last week approved its operating and infrastructure budgets for the 2016-17 fiscal year and an accompanying property tax rate that will cost property owners about $372 per $100,000 of assessed value.

 The tax rate is slightly below rollback, the rate that would generate the same amount of tax revenue as the current year. 

As part of its roughly $77 million annual operating budget, the commission did include a 3.3 percent raise and 0.7 percent cost of living adjustment for county employees, which would include the county administrator and county attorney.

 The proposed tax rate is 5.4 percent less than last year’s rate and 0.08 percent below the rollback rate, according to the county budget staff. The budget also includes a $133 million capital improvement component, with $33 million for wastewater-related infrastructure, $24 million for roads and bridges, $3.9 million for parks and beaches and $5 million for the Marathon Library Complex.

 The commission approved the budgets and tax rate with no discussion. A proposed new tax on alcohol and tobacco products and a proposed property tax to pay for canal restoration projects were not included in the 2016- 17 fiscal year tax rate or budget.

 The commission had discussed placing a referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters if they would support an additional local sales tax on alcohol and tobacco products with proceeds going to fund local social service agencies. 

A majority of the commission did support moving forward on an additional tax on alcohol and tobacco products at this time when the commission met last month. The commissioners said they wanted more information before formally voting on the issue. 

The county has begun to research the implementation of a stormwater tax that could be used to fund canal restoration projects in the unincorporated areas of the Florida Keys.

 County Administrator Roman Gastesi has called the proposal “preliminary.” County staff has not set any formal estimates on a monthly or annual assessment, but are looking at a two-tier structure with one rate for canal-front and waterfront properties and a lower rate for all others, Gastesi said.

 Also, the commission formally agreed to lower the residential trash rate from $404 a year to $386 in the new fiscal year. “If it was up to me, it would be less than that,” Commissioner George Neugent said. tohara@keysnews.com