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Anna Maria settles on tentative 2.10 millage, tax increase likely

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria commissioners in a special session July 25 adopted a tentative millage rate of 2.10 — a tax increase for the 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb noted that the tentative rate can only be lowered during public hearings on the budget in September.

If adopted, the rate is 0.05 mills higher than the current 2.05 rate and, the 2.10 rate would bring an additional $31,000 in ad valorem revenue to the city.

A 2.10 millage rate would be a 7.7 percent increase over the rollback rate of 1.9507. The rollback rate is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of ad valorem revenue in the 2013-14 budget as the 2012-13 budget.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he would approve the tentative millage, but was sure the commission could cut enough spending to adopt a final millage of 2.05.

Mayor SueLynn has proposed some major road and drainage spending in the 2013-14 budget and justified the increase by noting the improvements have to be done eventually.

The increased millage rate is a 2.3 percent hike from the current 2.05 rate. At a 2.10 millage rate, a property owner with a home valued for tax purposes at 400,000 would pay $840 in city property taxes. At the 2.05 rate, the same owner would pay $820.

The proposed $3.05 million budget includes revenue of $350,000 from Ridan Industries, a one-time payment. The company has been selected by the city to build a cell tower on city property. It also includes $30,000 in monthly payments from Ridan as the city’s share of cell tower profits. Mayor SueLynn, however, has not allocated any of the cell tower funds for expenditures, but has assigned them to cell tower maintenance, pending receipt of the funds.

When received, the commission decides where that money should be spent. It could go for road and drainage improvements, to pay the mortgage on the city’s Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard park or for other expenses, the mayor said.

Once the cell tower is built, Ridan will maintain the facility, not the city. The money was placed under “maintenance” to balance the budget, Percycoe said.

The commission’s July 24 budget work-session was the first time all five commissioners saw the budget, as Commissioners Gene Aubry and Nancy Yetter were absent from the July 17 work session.

At the start of the July 24 session, Commissioner Dale Woodland proposed commissioners lower the millage rate rather than increase the tentative rate in order to “place the burden on us” to come up with the needed funding.

Other commissioners, however, wanted to go through the work session and discuss each spending and revenue item.

Webb said making a decision on the millage rate at a work session was “too early in the process,” and the commission should make that decision at its final work session.

Woodland said he would oppose any increase in the millage rate, and would seek to have it remain at 2.05 or lower.

The proposed $3.05 million budget is a 22.5 percent increase from the $2.45 million in the 2012-13 spending plan, but the increase includes the $380,000 from the cell tower builder, a $145,000 grant for Lake LaVista dredging and an estimated $7,000 increase in payments from the City Pier Restaurant. Taking out those revenues would leave the budget at $2.51 million, a 2.4 percent increase.

The next budget session will be 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, while the first public hearing on the budget is 6 p.m. Sept. 12.

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