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Date of Issue: September 15, 2005

Anna Maria budget impasse

It looks like the 2005-06 Anna Maria budget won't be agreed upon until the city commission's final budget hearing on Sept. 21.

Anna Maria city commissioners at their initial public hearing on the budget Sept. 7 approved a $2.6 million budget with a 2.1 millage rate, but remained divided on whether or not $200,000 budgeted to finance capital improvement projects should remain separate or be placed in the capital improvements fund.

The 2.1 millage rate would be an increase of .1 mill from the current 2.0 millage rate, but a 23.24 percent jump from the rollback rate of 1.7040, the rate needed to generate the same amount of revenue as the 2004-05 budget.

Commissioners Carol Ann Magill and Dale Woodland are opposed to borrowing money and increasing taxes in the same budget, while Commission Chairman John Quam said he was "not confident" the city had enough information on the proposed drainage projects to put the city "into debt."

He did favor resurfacing the city's roads, which would cost an estimated $788,000 and would be financed by a line of credit or other long-term borrowing methods.

Quam, Magill and Woodland wanted the city's tax rate to remain at 2.0.

Assistant City Clerk Diane Percycoe suggested that the commission could reduce the $200,000 in the budget as debt service on capital improvement projects to any amount needed to maintain the 2.0 millage rate. The city could then decide what capital improvement projects should be started and financed in the coming budget year.

Quam suggested the contingency fund could be lowered from the proposed $79,000 to reach a 2.0 millage rate, or the $200,000 could be reduced.

Woodland said he was looking at the budget differently than his colleagues. He wants to cut expenses, not the contingency fund, because that's just "robbing our savings." He suggested lowering staff salary increases from 5 percent to just 3 percent, but Mayor SueLynn noted this would only save the city about $4,400 in the upcoming budget. Magill agreed with slicing the salary increases, but other commissioners remained cool to the idea and the 5 percent salary hike remained in the budget.

Woodland also suggested the city not put a new roof on the city hall this year, thus slashing about $60,000 from the budget. The commission needs to look at "things that can be reasonably put off until next year," to trim the budget, not look at methods of increasing revenues or taking money from reserve and contingency funds.

Commissioners agreed to pass the first reading of the budget ordinance and leave final decisions until the public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21.