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Anna Maria mayor: Budget cuts would hurt city services

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria commissioners appear caught between a rock and another rock.

Commissioners at previous budget work sessions had considered using the property tax rollback rate of 1.8685 for the 2014-15 budget instead of the 2.05 rate used for the 2013-14 budget.

But commissioners got some news at their Aug. 20 work session that changed the conversation.

City clerk Diane Percycoe and city treasurer Maggie Martinez presented a budget using the 1.8685 rate that showed a decline in funding for many city services.

At the rollback rate, city revenues would drop by $126,000, and some services would have to be cut, Mayor SueLynn said.

Percycoe also noted that a projected 10.77 percent increase in property values from the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office was the estimate, and the actual increase is 9 percent.

Using an ad valorem rate of 2.05, the city would receive $1.428 million in revenues; the rollback rate of 1.8685 would produce $1.302 million, a 9.7 percent drop in revenue.

A problem for the city using the rollback rate is that the cost of goods and services continues to increase, SueLynn said.

“I’m running for re-election in November, and would love to tell the electorate they got a tax break this year. But is it worth the loss of services to our residents?” she asked.

Percycoe said dropping the ad valorem rate to 2.0 would result in a revenue decline of $30,000.

She said the city needs to update its computer systems but, at the rollback rate, computers would not be updated in the new fiscal year. Also, some road repairs would be put off, and planned replacement of some equipment would not be possible.

Additionally, the city may be facing six Bert Harris Act legal actions, although at a 1.8685 ad valorem rate, funding for city attorney services would need to be cut almost $20,000.

“We just don’t know what those will cost us,” SueLynn said.

After reviewing the rollback rate budget, Commissioner Doug Copeland said, “It’s foolish to think we can operate on less money than last year.”

Commissioner Carol Carter agreed: “I can’t see a 1.8685 rate when costs are going up.”

However, Commission Chair Chuck Webb said non-homesteaded properties, which includes vacation rentals and second homes, would bear the brunt of a 2.05 millage rate because the value on those properties is not limited to a 3 percent increase, as are homesteaded properties.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he saw “effective and efficient spending of our taxpayers money” in the budget discussions.

Commissioners agreed to study the budget at a 2.05 millage and discuss the spending plan further at their Aug. 27 budget work session, which begins at 6 p.m.

TDC matching funds

In other business, Webb, who is a lawyer, said he’s studied county ordinances and the state statute on how resort tax dollars can be spent, but has yet to find a legal basis for the Manatee County Tourist Development Council’s “dollar-for-dollar” offering.

Under the program, a municipality provides half the funding for a tourist-related project, such as renovating the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, and the TDC provides the other half.

Webb said he can’t find the matching funds provision in any statute or ordinance.

“I’m just not sure it’s legal to provide resort tax funds to tourist projects with a matching grant,” he said. All he could find is that resort tax dollars must be used for tourist-related projects.

Webb studied the use of resort tax funds after SueLynn said Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione told her the BACVB, which operates under the TDC, could provide half the cost of repairing the Anna Maria City Pier if the city covered the other half.

The resort tax is the 5 percent collected by Manatee County on rentals of six months or less.

Webb said he would contact the county attorney about matching city funds with resort tax dollars.

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