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Date of Issue: August 02, 2007

Holmes Beach rolls back millage rate

The Holmes Beach City Commission last week set a maximum millage rate of 1.5989 for fiscal year 2007-08.

The commission also set a date for its first hearing on a proposed 2007-08 budget. The hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive. A second hearing is tentatively set for Tuesday, Sept. 18.

The city’s typically routine budget process was delayed for fiscal 2007-08 to incorporate property tax reform mandated by the Florida Legislature.

Lawmakers gathered for a special session earlier this summer that resulted in a tax reform package that required cities and counties to cut taxes in the 2007-08 fiscal year to the 2006-07 revenue levels and to then make an additional cut based on a formula analyzing taxing performance during the most recent five years. The package also proposed a constitutional amendment creating a “super exemption” to replace the “Save our Homes” exemption.

The late date of the session pushed back preparation of municipal budgets.

During a city commission meeting July 24, city treasurer Rick Ashley formally presented Holmes Beach’s proposed budget and maximum millage rate of 1.5989 as compared to this year’s 1.8.

A mil is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of property less any exemptions. This rate can be lowered through the adoption of the budget at the public hearings in September, but it cannot be raised by elected officials.

“The rate can be lower,” Ashley said. “This is the maximum.”

“What we have here is a rollback plus a 9 percent reduction,” said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger. “I think it protects the level of service and the only concern I have is with what may happen in January.”

The vote on the “super exemption” constitutional amendment is set for January 2008 during the presidential preference primary. Bohnenberger said he hoped to hold off on hiring new employees for vacancies until after the vote.

While city commissioners seemed pleased with being presented a trimmed budget, they shared some sour thoughts of Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, the architect of the state Legislature’s tax reforms.

Rubio, R-West Miami, campaigned mightily to force municipalities to cut property taxes. After the session, the St. Petersburg Times first reported that a roster of rollback requirements showed Miami’s required reduction was “zero” because it had been exempted for financial hardship. More recently, Rubio and others said the “zero” was a mistake that would be corrected next year and Miami still needed to trim its budget.

The Holmes Beach proposed 2007-08 budget contains $8,470,017 in expenditures and revenues. This year’s budget contained $12,233,903 in expenditures and set a city high when it was passed last fall, though it included reimbursable costs for the Key Royale Bridge reconstruction.

“Mr. Ashley has worked long and hard on this,” Haas-Martens said, referring to the spending plan.

On the revenue side, the budget anticipates $1,038,514 from state sources compared to $1,064,235 this year; $3,722,177 in local sources compared to $4,131,307 this year; and $3,709,326 in reserves compared to $7,038,361 this year.

The most sizeable chunks of state revenue will come from the ½ cent sales tax, $358,433, and the communications tax, $270,000. Other state channeled sources of revenue include gas tax, alcohol tax and revenue sharing.

Local sources of revenue include franchise fees for electricity and garbage collection, permits and licenses, fees and grants. But the bulk of revenue will come from the ad valorem property tax, $2,596,377 in 2007-08 - down $242,363 - compared to $2,838,740 in 2006-07.

On the expense side, the proposed budget breaks down into costs for the mayor and commission, general government, police, public works, code enforcement, stormwater utility, reserves and the “Hagen funds.”

The Hagen funds, a trust containing donations from residents Rex and Helen Hagen, consists of $33,137 set aside in the event the city decides to place lighting at Birdie Tebbetts Field and for equipment at the skate park.

The largest budget expense category is public works. For 2007-08, the proposed public works budget is $2,583,476 compared to this year’s spending of $6,351,166, which included advance payment on the Key Royale Bridge project. The largest costs in the public works budget are personnel, $723,401; capital improvements, $695,000; professional services, $683,000; repairs and maintenance, $140,000 and utility services, $100,000.

Capital improvements planned in 2007-08 include beautification, $10,000; trolley shelters, $20,000; the Grassy Point Preserve project, $40,000; Marina Drive improvements, $200,000; basin improvements, $210,000; and transportation improvements under the local option gas tax, $215,000.

The second highest expense category is the police department, with a proposed budget of $1,965,543 compared to this year’s $1,991,197. The police department expenses include about $1 million in salaries, $124,000 in insurance, $75,000 in operating supplies and $55,000 in equipment, including a $27,000 vehicle.

The proposed budget contains $335,000 for stormwater utility improvements compared to $415,000 budgeted for this year. Designated improvements in 2007-08 include work at Gulf and Marina drives, the Holmes Boulevard basin No. 10 at 74th Street and the Holmes Boulevard south basin No. 1.

Code enforcement expenses are budgeted at $134,420, about $4,000 more than this year. The budget includes $75,151 for salaries.

General government expenses also are increased slightly in the proposed budget, from $634,278 this year to $635,543 in 2007-08. The largest expense in this category is for personnel - $317,143, including $223,853 in salaries. Professional services, which include the city’s legal expenses, are budgeted at $172,500.

The proposed budget for the mayor and city commission is $197,472 compared to $223,027 this year. This category contains $100,000 for contingencies. The budget also contains a salary increase for future elected officials - $800 a month for a future mayor and $500 a month for future commissioners.

The mayor/commission category also contains the proposed funding for local nonprofit organizations. Proposed funding is down from 2006-07 primarily because the Anna Maria Island Community Center requested less money.

The budget recommends:

  • $27,400 for the Center, which requested $31,000.
  • $1,820 for the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, which requested $2,000.
  • $5,460 for Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, which requested $6,000.
  • $1,365 for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, which requested $3,000.
  • $910 for Keep Manatee Beautiful, which requested $1,000.
  • $683 for the Anna Maria Island Art League, which requested $1,000.
  • $1,365 for the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra, which requested $2,000.

In other business last week, the city commission gave final approval to a 30-year franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light, tabled a final reading of an ordinance on mooring and docking to rework a provision, authorized the mayor to sign a $174,722.50 contract for work on Marina Drive and briefly discussed the city’s outdoor dining ordinance. (See story this issue).

The commission’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28. The board agreed not to meet in early August.