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Anna Maria passes tax hike, $2.3 million budget

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria property owner Larry Kerr, who lives in South Carolina, spoke at the Sept. 19 final hearing on the 2012-13 budget, praising commissioners and city treasurer Diane Percycoe for a wise use of funds. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Thanks to rising home values that increased property taxes collected in Anna Maria this fiscal year, city commissioners were able to unanimously approve a $2.3 million budget at their Sept. 19 budget hearing for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

The commission retained the ad valorem millage rate of 2.05 mills, the same rate as the 2011-12 budget, but the rate represents a tax increase.

The $2.3 million operating budget is a 4.5 percent increase from this year’s $2.2 million spending plan.

The increase in ad valorem revenue to the city as a result of the 2.05 millage rate exceeds the rollback rate by 1.41 percent, said city treasurer Diane Percycoe.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of property value.

An Anna Maria homeowner with a house at an appraised value of $400,000 by the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, and with all possible exemptions taken, would pay $820 in city property taxes at the 2.05 millage rate.

A suggestion by Commission Chair Chuck Webb that salary increases for staff be reduced from 3 percent to 2 percent was rejected 4-0. Webb was unable to attend the meeting, but sent his suggestion in a memo.

Commissioner SueLynn said Anna Maria’s staff is smaller than that of Bradenton Beach, but does just as much work, if not more. And Anna Maria has about 300 more residents than Bradenton Beach, she said.

Other commissioners agreed with the 3 percent pay raise for staff.

Commissioners also approved purchase of a new laser speed gun for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation.

The laser gun costs $1,600, and it will be usable while a deputy is driving his vehicle, according to information from Sgt. Dave Turner, head of the substation.

Deputies can be on patrol and check the speed of an approaching vehicle or vehicle on a side street, Turner said.

The device is portable and can be used with any MCSO vehicle, Turner said.

Commissioners held off on approving the purchase of a 2007 electric truck from public works superintendent George McKay for $4,610.

McKay said he found the truck for sale by an Anna Maria resident. It has 7,000 miles, he said, and the book value is in the $7,500-$8,000 range.

Commissioners favored purchasing the vehicle when McKay presented the idea at a prior budget workshop, but the purchase must be approved at a commission meeting.

McKay said he decided to buy the truck because he knew someone would grab the bargain before the wheels of city government could get turning.

Percycoe said there is $3,000 in this year’s budget to purchase a vehicle, and it would only take $1,610 from the new budget to complete the purchase.

City attorney Jim Dye said he didn’t see any conflict of interest or financial issue, since the city would be paying McKay exactly what it cost him, but he said he would research the matter to be sure.

Commissioners agreed to wait for Dye’s report, expected at the Sept. 27 meeting.

McKay said that based upon the electric vehicle given the city in 1999 — and still in use — it would take about two years for the truck to pay for itself in gasoline savings.

Percycoe also announced that the reserve fund is at 34 percent in the 2012-13 budget. The 2011-12 budget had a reserve fund below 30 percent, but city auditors have recommended maintaining a 35 percent reserve fund, Percycoe said.

She was given a standing ovation by commissioners and the people in the gallery at the hearing.

In what acting Chair Dale Woodland said was somewhat of a surprise at a budget hearing, a citizen spoke during public comment. Only two members of the public attended the meeting.

Larry Kerr said he owns a vacation rental in the city, and is a practicing attorney in South Carolina.

“I’m glad to see taxes aren’t rising. It seems to me you all have done a very good job with the money,” Kerr said.

“Someday, I hope to retire here,” he said.

Woodland said that’s good news. The city can always use another retired attorney to sit on a board or committee.

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