ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua City Commission on Sept. 25 voted 5-0 to approve its 2023-24 annual budget in the amount of $ 66,733,019. The total is an increase of $ 3,223,056 above the amended budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

About $1.3 million of the budget increase was to the City’s general fund. In addition to adopting the budget, the Commission also approved a resolution setting the 2023 ad valorem property tax rate at 5.9500 mills. The City’s millage rate for the 2022 tax year was 5.3900 mills.

The rate adopted for the 2023 tax year is higher than the “rolled-back” rate of 4.9899 mills. The rolled-back rate is calculated by determining what tax rate would need to be applied to current property valuations in a given taxing district to generate the same ad valorem tax revenue as generated in the prior tax year. The 2023 rate adopted by the City of Alachua is an increase of 19.24 percent.

The approved millage rate in the City of Alachua, like every other municipality in Alachua County, resulted in an effective tax increase over the 2022 tax year. The increase was met with considerable displeasure by one man who spoke at the Sept. 25 meeting, angrily telling commissioners the increases may force him to move. The man left before commissioners could respond, but Vice-Mayor Dayna Miller said she hoped they could discuss budget issues more to understand the budgeting process.

In conjunction with the approval of the budget, the Commission also gave the nod of approval to a Capital Improvement Program (CIP), which includes funding for Alachua Police Department vehicles, underground and overhead utility improvements, street lighting, wastewater lift station replacement, recreation center ballfield lighting, and improvements to Alan Hitchcock Theatre Park on Main Street. Also included in the improvements plans is about $1.165 million for resurfacing city streets. In total, the City has budgeted about $14 million for capital improvements in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Notably, the commission also approved a plan that would raise the minimum wage to $16 per hour for anyone employed by the City. Human Resources Director Tara Malone said the recommended changes come at the urging of City Manager Mike DaRoza who hoped to retain employees by being more competitive with surrounding employers, including other governmental agencies.

Compliance and Risk Management Director G.B. Wilson said the City’s police department had lost three employees in recent months, at least partly because of wage differences. Malone said she believed the increased wages would not only help the City retain employees, but also provide room for growth within the organization.

Raising the minimum starting wage does have the effect of “wage compression,” where employees who were making less than the minimum would now be making as much as other employees, requiring an upward adjustment across the City’s entire pay scale. In all, the calculated effect of the increase in the minimum wage is estimated at $780,000 for the 2023-24 fiscal year, however this total does include additional positions not yet filled.

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