HB tightens belt but increases spending, taxes

Things are looking up for Holmes Beach.

In spite of projected shortfalls due to the economic effects of the novel coronavirus, the city increased taxes for property owners and found the revenue for 2020-21.

Commissioners unanimously voted Sept. 10 during a teleconferenced budget meeting to ratify the 2020-21 budget, including an ordinance levying ad valorem taxes and adopting the first reading of the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

In July, Mayor Judy Titsworth proposed a maximum millage rate of 2.53 mills for the 2020-21 fiscal year, compared with 2.25 in 2019-20.

The increased rate served as a placeholder while the city waited on more precise revenue estimates, according to city treasurer Lori Hill.

Once the city determined its income and cut some expenses, including a winning judgment on several Bert Harris lawsuits for which an additional $250,000 would have been allocated, the mayor and treasurer determined the millage rate would be 2.25 for 2020-21.

It amounts to a tax increase and a 4.61% increase over the rollback rate of 2.1641 mills.

The rollback rate is the millage required to collect the same ad valorem revenue as the previous year.

State law defines a tax increase as anything over the rollback rate.

Millage is $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value. At 2.25 mills, the ad valorem tax on a property valued at $500,000 would be $1,125. At 2.1641 mills, the property tax would be $1,082.05.

Other sources of city revenue include the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the West Coast Inland Navigation District and the half-cent discretionary tax.

In late July, Hill said the mayor trimmed about $140,000 since the budget talks began July 7.

At the Sept. 10 meeting, Hill explained additional changes to commissioners since their previous budget meeting, including:

  • Gas tax revenue increased by $5,000 over projected;
  • Sales tax revenue projection increased by $50,000;
  • State revenue sharing was up $45,000;
  • Communication service tax estimates decreased by $15,000;
  • Electric franchise fees were $35,000 less than anticipated;
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency grant funding for stormwater improvements increased by $100,000;
  • Fifth-cent tax was $13,000, which was higher than projected;
  • Half-cent discretionary tax was $75,000, also higher than projected.

Hill said about expenditures, “In the eight years I have been here, this is the lowest year-over-year expenses we have had.”

She said, by tightening the budget, the city was able to set the millage rate and maintain 24.69% in unrestricted reserves, totaling $2,741,513 as recommended by auditors.

Following Hill’s presentation, city commissioners commended her work on the budget and there were no questions or public comments.

“I think they worked really hard to try to not raise the millage rate,” Commissioner Kim Rash said of Titsworth and Hill. “They knew that was the right thing to do for our city.”

Commissioner Terry Schaefer agreed.

“I have no questions. And in my mind that is attributable to the great one-on-one sessions we’ve all had with the mayor and treasurer to answer our questions,” he said. “I feel very good about the outcome. I think it is a very fair budget.”

The final public hearing and vote on the budget ordinances will be at the 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22, commission meeting at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.


Holmes Beach budget

Proposed 2020-21 budget: $16,636,011.

2019-20 adopted budget: $17,879,270.

Proposed 2020-21 millage rate: 2.25 mills.

Maximum 2020-21 millage rate: 2.53 mills.

Rollback rate: 2.1641 mills.

2019 assessed property value:  $2,087,301,969.

2020 assessed property value:  $2,183,183,526.

Final public hearing for the budget: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.