Bay County property owners won't see an increase in the ad valorem tax rate next year. Commissioners certified the Fiscal Year 2013-14 maximum millage rate during their Tuesday meeting.
At 3.65, the millage rate will remain the same as it's been since 2008. "Unless you had an increase in the value of your property, you probably won't be paying any more taxes than you did last year," Commissioner George Gainer said.
Although the county will use a portion of its $8 million BP settlement to offset a revenue shortfall, property values are increasing and the board is confident that trend will continue. "The fact that [values] are going up instead of down is a really good thing," Gainer said. "I think the worst is behind us."
The millage rates for mosquito control (0.1525) and fire services (1.00) will also stay the same as 2013.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Commissioner Bill Dozier said. "We have managed our budget without raising the taxes and living within our means."
The board plans to conduct two public hearings before adopting the final millage rate and 2014 budget.
In other business, local gun enthusiasts will soon have a permanent place to practice their hobby. Commissioners gave the green light to a plan to build a public gun range at the Steelfield Landfill property.
The first phase of the facility's construction, tentatively scheduled for completion in October, will include archery, pistol and rifle ranges. Future plans call for a pavilion, trap and skeet fields, and a sporting clays course. The $200,000 cost will be funded with existing impact fees.
Commission also revisited the lifeguard issue. By unanimous vote, they agreed to negotiate with the current M. B. Miller Pier vendor to add open water rescue lifeguards in next year's contract.
Commissioner Mike Thomas has championed the idea of requiring vendors that do business on county beaches to furnish lifeguards instead of funding the program with taxpayer money. "To me, it's a user pay deal," Thomas said. "I think government is telling people enough what to do and this way we can do it without costing anybody money."
County staff was directed to send out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to potential vendors at Rick Seltzer Park, the second of two county-maintained beach areas. If the board ultimately approves lifeguards on county beaches, they will be posted beginning with the 2014 season.