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Bradenton Beach faces $400K-plus shortfall in budget plan

By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach officials are scratching their heads over a projected $441,458 budget shortfall.

At the July 22 city meeting, city treasurer Sheila Dalton presented the commission with a 2014-15 budget of $3.254,005, using the current millage rate of 2.3329. The 2013-14 budget is $2,805,372.

The $3.25 million budget includes the spending needed to operate the city, but it also is $440,000 more than the anticipated revenue.

Dalton said the commission has to decide what to adjust in the budget to bring it into balance.

With a 1.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for city employees, and several proposed capital improvement projects, the city is slated to spend more than it expects in revenue.

The projected millage rate of 2.3329 exceeds the rollback rate of 2.2323, amounting to a tax increase for taxpayers.

The rollback rate is the rate needed to maintain the same revenue as the current year’s budget.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he would not support a millage increase, but said the proposed CIP “wish list” of endeavors the city hopes to take on has been neglected for too long.

“These projects were neglected in the past few years and need to be addressed,” he said. “But taking them all on at once is not really an option either.”

The list includes road improvements and a two-year $900,000 stormwater project that must be completed or the city will lose the commitment for matching funds from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

The expensive undertaking will most likely mean putting routine maintenance projects, such as street repaving, on the back burner.

“What we need to decide here is are we going to appropriate this kind of money to catch up or balance the budget,” said Commissioner Jack Clarke. “If we decide to focus on the latter, the citizens are going to have to understand they are going to be dealing with crumbling streets for another year.”

The major revenue stream for the city is ad valorem taxes; the city is projecting a collection of $994,000.

Other forms of revenue for the city come from electrical, telephone and other franchise fees and state taxes, to name a few. The total anticipated revenue amounts to $1.65 million.

Other expenditures draining the city’s general fund are increased insurance and attorney’s fees.

Dalton said employee health insurance is increasing by $76,000 this year.

Attorney’s fees are expected to increase next year by $60,000.

The police department also is asking for more money, requiring a 3 percent budget increase or around $30,000.

All police department employees would receive a 2 percent raise, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

Despite the shortfall, commissioners said this year’s budget process has been easier than it has in two decades thanks to the efforts of Dalton, who joined the administrative team in February.

“We used to have several meetings for each department, which could run for hours,” said Commissioner Ed Straight. “This year it’s been a breeze.”

She told commissioners it will be up to them to decide how they want to proceed, and she contributed several cost-saving ideas, including discontinuing coffee service and recommending the treasurer drop off the daily deposit on the way home from work instead of making a special trip.

 

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