Inverness: State of the city

Inverness City Manager Frank DiGiovanni holds the door open at the Inverness City Hall for a visiting citizen.

The Inverness City Council will meet Tuesday to set the city’s tentative millage rate, the first steps in determining how much taxes the city’s residents will have to pay.

The decision will be made following a previous notice by Citrus County Property Appraiser Les Cook’s office this summer that the city’s preliminary taxable value is $488 million, a 6.6% increase from 2018. Net new constructions accounts for about $3.3 million.

Typically, municipalities set tentative millage rates higher than existing rates because Florida law allows elected bodies to reduce the tentative rates later, but not raise them.

The current Inverness ad valorem rate is 8.2729. Amid increases in the city’s taxable value this year, keeping the current rate would generate an additional estimated $203,717.

But City Manager Frank DiGiovanni warns that there will likely be cost increases that the city has no control over.

“The city will incur increases from multiple areas that we do not control: the Florida Retirement System, medical program, electric consumption, law enforcement increase and program increases to support events, a new Depot District and enhanced parks, residential sanitation,” he wrote the council.

“We must factor the potential increase to landfill tip charges, higher costs for all park maintenance, buildings and public areas that are driven by greater usage. We also must factor increases to the landscape maintenance program, and maintenance/operational costs associated with Whispering Pines City Park,” he wrote.

“The goal is to produce a budget that does not change the current millage rate. However, the law mandates that once the tentative millage is set, it may go down, but not up,” he wrote. In other words, it is recommended that we exercise caution and maintain a safety net by adopting a rate that may drop.”

One mill in property, or ad valorem, taxes is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of the property’s taxable value.

So if a property is worth $75,000, after homestead exemptions, the property owner’s city property taxes would be $620.47 if the property tax rate remains at the current 8.2729 mills.

DiGiovanni is recommending the tentative rate be raised to 8.5229, a 0.25 mill increase. To set the rate at that level would require four out of a possible five votes. The higher amount would generate an expected $318,917.

For the individual taxpayer with property worth $75,000 after exemptions, the hike, if it stays in place, would mean $18.74 more in property taxes.

The council will hold two public hearings on the millage rate: 5:01 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 5, and 5:01 p.m., Thursday Sept. 19.

The council will also consider repealing its ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries.

The council visited dispensaries in other counties earlier this year and agreed that they would not be harmful to the city and agreed their operation and contribution, as the medicinal benefits of the drug were becoming better known, were impressive.

“I would support ... the lifting of the ban,” said Councilman David Ryan during a February council meeting.

Regardless of what local residents think of medical marijuana, “it’s legal now,” he said. “Medical marijuana is the wave of the future. ...”

The city can be a part of the change or “let the wave pass us by,” he said. “I don’t see a downside to this.”

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Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.

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