At Monday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting, constitutional leaders came before the Board to propose their budgets for the fiscal year ending September 30th, 2019. The budget proposals began with a presentation from Budget Director Sharon Chauharjasingh outlining the anticipated needs of county.

The board heard directly from the Osceola County Property Appraiser, Katrina Scarborough, the Supervisor of Elections, Mary Jane Arrington, and Osceola County Sheriff, Russ Gibson. Representatives from the Osceola Clerk of Courts office as well as Lynx were on hand to present the Board with their proposed budgets.

As reported from the county, for the ninth consecutive year, the county’s general fund millage rate will not increase under the county manager’s recommended budget presented to County Commissioners on Monday. The overall tax rate also will remain the same as last year.

However, doing so certainly wasn’t a simple task given the extraordinary needs the county has and in so may varied areas.

As an example, The impact of the horrific Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting led to a significant increase in the Sheriff’s Office budget request for FY19 due to changes in State Legislation that mandated a major change in staffing in order to keep our children safe.

The budget process is ongoing and on Monday Sheriff Russ Gibson talked about his office’s efforts to keep spending under control – even with the state’s unfunded mandate for more School Resource Officers. Sheriff Gibson shared during his presentation to the Board that he would support a law enforcement impact fee if it was ever presented.

In a switch from previous years, all the Constitutional Officers (and LYNX) were invited to make budget presentations to the board.

“I wanted to change things up this year,” said Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins, Jr. “This is a way for our citizens to see the big picture, become aware of the challenges we face – as well as what future needs might be, whether it is new polling places or new locations for government services.”

The County continues experiencing many positive signs that the economy is recovering as property valuations increased by 10.65 percent, though they have still not reached FY08 valuations (pre-recession levels). The Fiscal Year 19 recommended budget includes an overall similar level of service, such as maintaining the road resurfacing program at the same level ($9 million) as the current year, continuation of the commitment to public safety, fire/EMS stations, equipment and training facility, with specific budget items directly tied to the Board-approved Strategic Plan.

“I would like to express my appreciation, as always, to all of our partners (the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, the County Attorney, Commission Auditor, our Constitutional Officers, etc.). In addition, my staff was again diligent in their efforts to present a Recommended Budget that maintains service levels,” said County Manager Don Fisher. “Through the leadership of the Board and efforts of our partners, I believe we were able to submit a budget for Fiscal Year 2019 that still provide services to the citizens with minimal impact to taxes.”

Today is just the start of the budget process, with many opportunities for residents to give their input remaining. While millage rates were set on Monday, it is important to remember they cannot be raised, only lowered. Staff will continue to make adjustments to the budget, based on direction from the Board, in preparation for the first public hearing. The first public hearing on the tax rates proposed for the budget will be held at 5:30 p.m., September 6 in the Board of County Commission Chambers, 1 Courthouse Square, Room 4100, Kissimmee, FL 34741.

The proposed FY2019 budget can be found here.