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Date of Issue: September 15, 2005

Holmes Beach budget passes first hearing, millage OK'd

Holmes Beach held its first public hearing for the 2005-06 fiscal budget, which includes a reduction in millage from 2 to 1.9 mills. The reduced rate will generate an additional $359,100 in tax dollars for the upcoming year. This represents a 14 percent increase in property tax income.

The millage rate was passed unanimously after Treasurer Rick Ashley explained that city is part of Manatee County's incorporated area, which has a proposed millage rate that is .73 less than the unincorporated area of the county. Ashley said the city levy would give the city a tax credit, making its effective millage rate actually 1.17.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger said he is always in favor of lowering the millage rate and the 1.17 effective rate is even lower than what he was going to advocate. He said the lowest he recalls the millage ever being set was 1.75 in 1992.

The overall total proposed budget is $10,147,903, including the reserve and carryover amounts of $2,301,000.

Included in the budget is a 3-percent cost of living salary increase for city staff. Also budgeted is $56,750 for nonprofit organizations and $1,500 for the boat parade fireworks.

The largest budget item is $2.6 million to replace the Key Royale Bridge. According to Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, the city must "front" the money, which will be repaid by the Florida Department of Transportation in its 2007-08 budget. In addition to taking out a loan, the city has budgeted an additional $80,000 interest for the first year of the loan and again for the second year.

Whitmore said the $2.6 million is still just an estimate on the cost to replace the bridge. Bids on the project will be opened in January.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Don Maloney objected to spending $80,000 in reserves to pay interest charges for the Key Royale Bridge. He believes the DOT, that the bridge is structurally sound and can perform until DOT has the money to rebuild it. As far as he understood, the only fault with the bridge is that it is 10 feet wide, not 12 feet, as current standards dictate, and it has no sidewalks.

Maloney believes there must be a better place to spend the money and benefit a greater number of people. The rest of the commission disagreed.

Finally, funding was earmarked for maintenance dredging and stormwater improvements. The city has $471,000 earmarked for future drainage improvements.

The commission passed the first reading of the budget unanimously. The second public hearing is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 20.