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Date of Issue: October 05, 2006

Record Holmes Beach budget approved

Despite pleas from some residents, the Holmes Beach City Commission at its Sept. 26 meeting unanimously approved a record $12.1 million budget for the 2006-07 fiscal year. The commission also approved a millage rate of 1.8, down from the previous year's rate of 1.9, but an increase of 10.38 percent over the rollback rate of 1.61316.

The $12.1 million, however, is somewhat misleading.Included in the $12.1 million is a $2.6 million loan for the completion of a new Key Royale Bridge along with $200,000 in interest and $2.2 million in reserves, up from last year's $1.75 million. Also in the budget is a $100,000 contingency fund. The Florida Department of Transportation has pledged to refund the $2.6 million to the city in its 2008-09 budget.

Commissioners also lowered the millage rate for the budget to 1.8 mils, the lowest of any municipality in Manatee County, said Commissioner David Zaccagnino.

Holmes Beach resident Russ Olsen, however, thought the commission should lower the millage rate even further to 1.7 mils by cutting some items.

"There's plenty of fat in that budget," he claimed. "I have a lot of problems with the budget."

While commissioners agreed that everyone's taxes should be lowered, the reality is that Holmes Beach has the lowest millage rate in the county, said Zaccagnino. In addition, he noted that of the $4,000 he paid in property taxes for the coming year, only about 6 percent, or $250, is returned to Holmes Beach as ad valorem taxes.

"The rest of it goes to the county," he observed.

Olson, however, said that talking to the commission about lowering taxes is a "waste of time."

The commission, he alleged, is "sitting on a powder keg."

Ron Maurer suggested the commission look into establishing a toll both at the city limits on Manatee Avenue to raise revenue and charge non-residents a fee to enter the city. He said that Sanibel Island and Gasparilla Island each charge a toll to cross a bridge and enter the respective city.

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens pointed out that Manatee Avenue is owned by the Florida Department of Transportation, not Holmes Beach. The DOT has to approve any toll booth and it only does that if a new bridge has been constructed. Commissioner Roger Lutz noted that the bridges to Sanibel and Gasparilla islands are not owned by the DOT, but are private bridges funded by those cities.

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