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Date of Issue: July 30, 2008

Anna Maria's record $3.96 million budget misleading

While it looks like a lot of money on paper, Anna Maria’s proposed $3.96 million budget for fiscal year 2008-09 is not what it seems.

It looks like it’s a 41.4 percent increase over last year’s $2.8 million budget, but looks can be deceiving.

The budget includes $1 million in revenues from the city’s line of credit for its stormwater drainage projects.

Take that money away and the budget proposed by Mayor Fran Barford at the city commission’s July 22 work session is $196,000 more than last year, a 7 percent increase.

 Even that jump is somewhat misleading because it includes revenues from grants and $78,710 in revenue from the city’s recently passed stormwater utility fee. Money from the stormwater fee can only be used for approved stormwater projects.

The city also anticipates an increase in building fees and charges for other services because it recently raised those limits.

And this is a “bare-bones” budget at that, Barford told commissioners.

With ad valorem tax revenues projected at 12 percent less than last year, preparing the 2008-09 budget “was a difficult process,” she said. In addition, the budget is now “department driven,” rather than “usage driven” as in years past, Barford observed.

Regardless of the preparation method, the reduced budget “does not jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Anna Maria,” the mayor pledged.

The city can get by on a bare bones budget because of its dedicated staff, who are multi-task experts, she said. While most cities with 1,800 people have staff twice the size of Anna Maria, the city gets by on six full-time employees and one part-time person.

“We have half the staff of like-sized cities, but we still have all the work,” Barford said.

But times are tough.

The staff is getting a 3 percent cost-of-living increase in salary, although the Tampa Bay region has a 5.2 percent adjustment. The total amount of the requested salary increase is $10,800, city treasurer Diane Percycoe said.

The city will be hit with a 12 percent decline in revenue because of lower property values in the city - the first such drop in 16 years - but the city’s 2007-08 millage rate of 1.7886 is proposed to remain, thanks to budget trimming in many areas and the multi-task ability, the mayor said.

For people who complain about high taxes, Barford reminded commissioners that only 10.8 percent of a resident’s annual tax bill from goes to the city. The remaining 90 percent is gobbled up by the school district (46.4 percent), county government (38.7 percent) and other special taxing districts (4.1 percent).

Commissioners were pleased with the budget and new format.

Commission chairman John Quam said it was “much easier” to read and understand than in previous years because each department’s expenses are together in the budget.

“Good job,” said Commissioner Dale Woodland.

After a discussion of health benefits and several other items, commission consensus was to maintain the current 1.7886 millage rate, although the millage won’t be officially established until the commission holds two hearings, the first of which will be Sept. 18, then votes at the second hearing.

The next budget work session is slated for 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, at city hall, with another session planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19, if needed.