Anna Maria begins building 2018-19 budget

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Center of Anna Maria Island executive director Chris Culhane requests $18,500 in funding from the Anna Maria City Commission June 28 at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Anna Maria held its first workshop June 28 on the 2018-19 fiscal budget, leading up to public hearings in September before the spending plan is finalized.

The biggest change from this year is in the code enforcement budget. Mayor Dan Murphy projected $512,810 in revenues for the next fiscal year — up from $306,186. The additional $123,186 would come from vacation rental registration fees of units not currently registered with the city.

The city has identified 125 vacation rentals operating without registering and the search for more rentals operating under the radar is ongoing.

The city clerk estimated there are nearly 600 vacation rentals in the city.

Other changes noted in this initial review are in wages, which will increase 3 percent for the building department and code enforcement.

Murphy said the 33 percent increase for code enforcement is misleading due to vacancies.

The department lost two officers and a part-timer in the 2017-18 fiscal year. When accounting for their losses in the current code enforcement budget, the wage increase is about $5,000 more than the budgeted amount, or a 3 percent increase.

The mayor said he hopes to get the department staff up to 100 percent in the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The commission approved a contingency fund of $92,410 to be used by the departments. According to Murphy, mainitaining a contingency fund allows for faster allotment than funding from the city’s reserve account.

“If you put the money into a reserve account, it requires advertising that you’re tapping the reserves and it requires two readings,” Murphy said. “And you can’t react quickly enough.

“So by putting it into a contingency, we can quickly react. If we really need the money bad, we can call a special meeting and we can take a vote.”

Unused money in the contingency fund rolls over into the new fiscal year.

Estimated expenditures for the building department are $760,410, an increase of 18 percent from this year. A large portion of that expense is the newly established contingency fund.

Revenue for the building department is projected at $727,500, compared to $699,600.24 for 2017-18.

The code enforcement department expenses were set at $479,900. The increase of 17 percent from this year is mostly due to the city’s effort to counter understaffing, as well as an intent to expand the role of the lobbyist.

According to Murphy, the expense of hiring a lobbyist fell under code enforcement because he helped defend city code.

“He did just a yeoman’s job this last year of stopping the vacation rental people on one side of the aisle by adding in the sex offender language,” Murphy said. “Almost single-handedly, by Tallahassee’s point of view.”

An additional $5,000 in lobbying costs will expand the role beyond vacation rental matters.

Murphy said the money for lobbying will not come from ad valorem revenue. In fact, he said only $51,000 of code enforcement expenditures will be paid from taxpayer funds.

The next budget workshop will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 12, with the focus on general fund revenues and expenses.

Murphy said options for setting the property millage rate, the rollback rate and tax increase options will be explored in July.

To avoid raising property taxes, the city would need to adopt the rollback rate, the millage needed to produce the same revenue as the current budget year.

The commission will meet to set the city’s maximum millage at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26.

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