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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Record budget for Holmes Beach a definite maybe

Holmes Beach City Commissioners adopted a tentative 2004-05 budget of $8.4 million at its initial budget hearing Sept. 14, along with a tentative 2.0 millage rate. But at least two commissioners served notice in the 3-2 budget vote that they were prepared to argue a number of line items when the commission meets for the final budget hearing Sept. 28. The tentative millage rate passed unanimously.

While the $8.4 million budget is a record, it includes a reserve carryover of $3.1 million.

However, rising property values on Anna Maria Island and in Holmes Beach fueled an ad valorem tax revenue increase of $350,000, allowing the commission to retain the 2.0 millage rate. The rate was at 2.25, but the commission two years ago was able to reduce the rate because of rising property values.

Several property owners spoke to complain about the high increase in their property taxes, but Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger noted that property value increase is a function of the county property appraiser, not the city. In addition, said Bohnenberger, the state's Amendment 10 puts the tax burden on non-resident property owners who are not limited by the 3 percent maximum annual increase in property taxes that homesteaded residents enjoy.

"I agree with everything you said," replied Commissioner Roger Lutz, "but you are preaching to the choir. We didn't pass any of that (legislation)."

Commissioner Don Maloney argued for a full-time professional city planner, noting that the budget includes $80,000 for a part-time planner. The city would be better served with its own planner, rather than using someone like Bill Brisson on an "as needed" basis.

Not to be outdone, Bohnenberger said he didn't agree with a number of increases to charitable organizations, along with some other line items.

Mayor Carol Whitmore noted that the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch organization had withdrawn its $1,500 request. Bohnenberger had asked to review that organization's accounting to see how it spent its money before voting for any appropriation.

Both Maloney and Bohnenberger voted against the tentative budget.