Rate stays same, but tax increases in Bradenton Beach

After adjusting and approving city department budget proposals, Bradenton Beach commissioners voted July 18 to maintain the millage rate at 2.3329 for the 2013-14 budget —  a tax increase for property owners.

Revenue for the current spending plan is $2,391,787, while anticipated revenue for 2013-14 brings the budget up to $2,502,724.

The rollback rate – the millage rate that would produce the same tax revenue as the current 2012-13 budget is 2.2302. Any millage rate higher than 2.2302 amounts to a tax increase.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Commissioners raised taxes in the 2012-13 budget to cover a $145,000 budget shortfall. The city voted in 2012 to raise taxes to cover half the shortfall, while paying the other half from the city reserve fund.

The impact to a person owning a home valued at $450,000 was an additional $85 in property taxes over the previous year.

According to city financials, ad valorem taxes collected by the city are expected to increase from $924,468 in 2012-13 to $950,000 due to higher property values.

Commissioners concluded department budget reviews and approved maintaining the millage rate the same. The unanimous approval for the millage rate means commissioners cannot raise the millage as the budget process continues, but state statute does allow the city to lower the rate before finalizing the budget in September.

City officials, July 18, began with the administration budget. The 2012-13 budget addressing administration expenditures was set at $360,738. The proposed 2013-14 budget had a modest increase request to $364,700.

City clerk and chief financial officer Nora Idso fielded questions from commissioners that began with Commissioner Jan Vosburgh asking why Idso’s professional services budget increased from $10,000 to $18,000.

Idso said the city is paying more for its computer and software services because “we are trying to Band-Aid the server to keep it running. To get a new server would run between $30,000-$40,000.”

Vosburgh also questioned the department’s operating supplies budget. The commissioner noticed the budget did not increase from last year’s $4,000, while only $788 had been spent.

She wanted to know why so much money should be kept in a line item that isn’t being used as expected.

Idso said more expenses were expected before the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. However, after reviewing a breakdown of those expenses, she agreed to shave $2,000 from her request.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to approve the budget at the new amount of $362,700.

Commissioners moved on to address the planning department’s budget and it didn’t take long for Commissioner Ric Gatehouse to question an additional $25,000 increase in salaries.

Idso said M.T. Causley Inc., which contracts building official Steve Gilbert to the city, asked for a 5 percent increase. Idso said it’s been seven years since the company has asked for an increase.

Gatehouse said he would not favor an increase when the city has made efforts to reduce planning expenditures.

“If I recall, last year we had discussed having city planner Alan Garrett come on board to take some of the duties from Steve to save money on the overtime wages,” said Gatehouse. “That was one reason, but we also spent money on software that has not been installed to speed up the permit process.”

Gatehouse said he’s not seeing the cost savings behind those two actions.

“And now we are being asked for a cost increase? I think that is counter to what our plans were,” he said.

Commissioners briefly discussed a compromise to allow a 2.5 percent increase, but comments were largely against that idea.

“My position on this is we were looking for cost savings and instead, they are looking for an increase,” said Gatehouse. “We are going in an opposite direction. We’ve lightened Steve’s workload. We should see some reflection in that.”

Gatehouse said the software to speed up the permit process was paid for in the 2012-13 budget and has not been installed. He said the software was purchased at a considerable expense in order to reduce work hours.

“We’ve asked for certain things to be done and it hasn’t been done,” said Gatehouse. “So we are going to reward them for asking them to do something they didn’t do?”

Commissioners agreed and denied the $25,000 proposed increase and voted to approve the planning department’s 2013-14 budget of $343,500.

Minus the $25,000, the planning department’s budget was reduced from this year’s $349,657 budget.

The commission also adjusted its own budget of $33,400. Commissioners cut contribution funds in this year’s budget due to financial restraints.

Commissioner Gay Breuler noticed $1,500 was unused this year and $1,000 was proposed for the 2013-14 budget in the travel line item.

Breuler suggested taking $750 and moving it into the contributions line item to increase it to $1,250.

Gatehouse said he was disappointed the city was unable to do more for the Annie Silver Community Center this year and would like to see the center receive more help.

Discussion ensued on a prior request to help with the fireworks at the BeachHouse Restaurant, but Gatehouse said no one followed up as promised.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said he would rather see the money go to a place like the community center, “rather than a private undertaking.”

Commissioners provided a consensus to shift some funds from travel to contributions, but did not decide where the funds would go.

Following the three days of budget meetings, Idso said she would make the adjustments voted on by commissioners and present a new budget.

Commissioners can address the budget as needed before finalizing it in September, but the vote to set the millage rate means there will be no increase in city taxes.

More on the BB budget: page 14.

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