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Date of Issue: July 22, 2009

Anna Maria faces bare-bones budget

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford gave city commissioners bad news at their July 16 work session for the 2009-10 budget.

“The ad valorem numbers are down for the third straight year and, this year, the decrease is $117,000,” she said.

More bad news. The amount of revenue the city receives from the state is projected to be down 10 percent, Barford said, and property values have declined by another 10 percent.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

 Barford, city treasurer Diane Percycoe and city staff presented a $3.1 million draft budget to the commission that includes $1.04 million for Phase 2 of the stormwater drainage plan.

Without the stormwater drainage expense, the city’s operating budget is $2.04 million.

The master stormwater drainage plan is funded by a matching Southwest Florida Water Management District grant and the city has a line of credit to fund the project, while Swiftmud will reimburse Anna Maria its share after the project is complete.

For revenues to meet the proposed $3.1 million budget, the millage rate will have to be 1.9450 mills, which is the rollback rate, Percycoe said.

The rollback rate is the millage rate the city would have to implement to match the expenditures in the 2008-09 budget. The current millage rate is 1.7882.

The proposed millage rate increase would be .1568, or 15 cents for every $1,000 of assessed evaluation.

For a home assessed at $500,000, the increase in taxes would be $75. At the 1.9450 rate, the total property tax levied against a home with an assessed value of $500,000 and homestead exemption of $25,000 would be $972.50.

But remember, Percycoe said, the majority of property taxes go to the county, which for the third straight year has cut the amount of revenue it sends to municipalities, she said. The city gets less than 10 percent of the ad valorem revenues.

“The county is taking a bigger slice of the pie?” questioned Commissioner Dale Woodland.

“Yes,” Percycoe replied.

Apparently, this was not good news to commissioners, and Woodland suggested that the staff and commission “make every effort to get back to the 1.7882 millage rate.”

He said he didn’t want to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” and emphasized the city needs to cut expenses.

That’s not going to be easy, said Percycoe. “There’s just not a lot of wiggle room in the budget.”

She noted that the city has lost $300,000 in ad valorem revenues the past three years. There also are no salary raises for staff in the proposed budget.

Commissioner Chuck Webb said the city is paying the price now for the early 2000s, when “governments got fat” on all the increases in assessed evaluation. “Now, we are down to a bare-bones budget.”

Percycoe agreed. “It’s not expenses that have gone up, it’s revenues that have gone down.”

But the good years were not wasted, said Barford.

Since 2001, the city has implemented a master stormwater-drainage plan, a five-year capital improvements plan, hired a city engineer and increased benefits to staff.

Additionally, a revised comprehensive plan has been adopted, many land-development regulations have been revised, the flood insurance premium paid by homeowners has declined and the city is negotiating a new lease for the city pier.

Every staff member pitched in to provide a budget that meets the “health, safety and welfare” requirements of Anna Maria residents, she said.

“We have a superb staff that gives 100 percent with no expectation of a raise in salary this year,” she said.

And some expenses have been cut for the coming fiscal year, Percycoe said.

The city’s contract with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services for 2009-10 is $659,800, up just $4,100 from last year’s contract. At the same time, expenditures for building department services have been cut from $146,600 to $130,000 under the proposed budget.

All well and good, Webb said, but he wants to know such things as how much outside consultants have cost the city, and how much fuel costs, health insurance and office supplies have increased in recent years.

“I understand income is down for everybody. We need this information for our constituents” if it comes to a point where the commission has to consider raising the millage rate.

The next budget work session was scheduled for 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 6, with another slated for 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 20.

The budget public hearings will be held in September on to-be-determined dates, Commission Chairman John Quam said.