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Date of Issue: July 13, 2006

Taxes remain same in proposed Anna Maria budget

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn presented the city's 2006-07 budget to the city commission July 6, with the proposed ad valorem tax rate remaining at 2.0 mils, the same as in last year's budget.

That's because property values in the city have increased and the projected ad valorem tax revenue for the budget is $1.5 million, a 15.1 percent climb from last year's $1.31 million. The total budget is $2.36 million, not including the $1 million the city might borrow for capital improvement projects. The reserve fund is at $654,000, about 35 percent of annual expenditures.

The $169,000 jump in revenues is offset, however, by major increases in the city's wind insurance, general government insurance and the budgeted $120,000 for debt service on the $1 million the city will borrow for capital improvement projects.

The total amount of the budget increase was kept somewhat in check by the new contract for police services with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. While the MCSO contract has risen dramatically each year since the $330,000 amount in 2001-02, the coming year's contract will only jump from $582,000 to $615,000, a modest 6.5 percent increase.

Items proposed for the city but not placed in the budget for next year include replacement of at least 25 feet of the city pier, new trolley shelters, reconstruction of the dais at the city commission to make it comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and new chairs for the public in the commission chamber.

The mayor did, however, propose that the commission either increase the salary of the mayor or authorize an administrative assistant in the budget. The position of mayor is no longer just a part-time post, she maintained, and the responsibilities and duties continue to grow.

"As our charter is set up, the mayor is also the town manager," SueLynn said, noting that the charter provides for an administrative assistant, if approved by the commission.

For the past four years, she said she's been the town manager, working on a number of issues and problems that were either ignored by previous administrations or given to staff members to handle.

"The city staff should not be expected to be the town manager," she said. On average, she's been working more than 40 hours a week the past year. When she first took office, she was putting in 50 to 60 hours a week, she noted.

An administrative assistant would be a professional who would essentially function as the town manager. The drawback, noted the mayor, is that the salary and benefits package would likely be around $65,000 a year.

The mayor noted she was not lobbying for a salary increase, just presenting options. She recommended the commission establish the post of administrative assistant to "pick up some major responsibilities" from the mayor.

Commission Chairperson John Quam said that while SueLynn is now a qualified town manager and has been doing a great job, the next mayor might not have the same qualifications. A raise in pay for the mayor would not guarantee that the person elected has the same experience.

Commissioner Chris Tollette said that from the description of the mayor's duties, it's clear that she's been functioning as the town manager and suggested the position be paid accordingly.

But Commissioner Duke Miller wasn't convinced.

"There's no doubt you are doing more than you are paid to do," but he would like to see actual job descriptions and the separate duties of the mayor and administrative assistant before he could make a decision.

"If you want an assistant, show me what the assistant does and what the mayor does," he said.

Miller and the mayor agreed to meet before the July 11 budget workshop to draw up a list of duties and responsibilities for each position and present those to the commission July 11.

Commissioners also discussed each line item of the budget and hit a snag when discussing the $120,000 budgeted for debt service on the $1 million line of credit for capital improvement projects.

Commissioner Dale Woodland thought the amount should have been larger, while other commissioners observed the amount might not even be that big. The commission has previously approved the $1 million line of credit, but has not yet authorized the first draw.

The commission scheduled further budget workshops for 5 p.m. on July 11, 18 and 25, with two public hearings to be held in September.