The Monroe County Commission will consider a 2.6 percent property-tax increase as it heads into the first of its three final three budget hearings this week.
The first meeting will be Wednesday in Key Largo.
In July, the commission agreed to levy a property tax rate of $400 per $100,000 of taxable value for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The rate is 2.6 percent over rollback -- the rate that would generate the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year.
The commission is handling a roughly $284 million annual operating budget. It can lower its proposed rate, but not increase it.
County Administrator Roman Gastesi had proposed a budget that came in at rollback, but would have taken $4.9 million out of reserves to balance.
Commissioner Danny Kolhage instead proposed -- and a majority of the commission approved -- raising the tax rate above rollback, which spared the county from raiding reserves to balance the budget for a second straight year.
Kolhage suggested the county modestly raise taxes in the 2012-13 fiscal year to spare taxpayers from possibly being subjected to a dramatic increase in 2013-14.
Commissioner Heather Carruthers voted against the tentative tax rate and the accompanying budget because it included a 3 percent raise for employees.
She said she wants a wage and benefit study and employee reviews completed before raises are doled out.
The county is soliciting firms to conduct such a study, to determine if county employees' salaries are correct and based on their skill level and responsibilities.
"I appreciate our employees and the hard work they do, but I want this completed before we give across the board raises," Carruthers said.
The commission will hold its first meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Murray Nelson Government Center in Key Largo. The second meeting will be at 5 p.m. Sept. 9 at the Marathon Government Center. The final meeting, in which the tax rate will be set, will be at 5 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Harvey Government Center in Key West.