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Date of Issue: September 29, 2005

Budget, Budget, Budget

Anna Maria defers on long-term capital improvements

After seven meetings, Anna Maria at last has a budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year at the same 2.0 millage rate as last year. Commissioners at their Sept. 21 budget hearing approved a $2.23 million budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year.

That's the good news.

The down side is that the city commission made no decision on long-term financing of the estimated $1.6 million in capital improvement projects the city needs - desperately, according to the capital improvements advisory committee.

Mayor SueLynn had included $200,000 in her preliminary budget for debt financing, depending on how much the commission wanted to borrow now to get the projects done before costs escalate further. The commission, however, decided to use that money ($185,000) for general capital improvement projects and scheduled a worksession Oct. 13 to decide exactly where those funds should be spent.

The mayor has said on numerous occasions that the longer the commission waits to fund capital improvements, the more they will cost. Indeed, following Hurricane Katrina, construction costs in many areas of Florida increased 20 to 30 percent, according to the Florida Contractors Association. And they're likely to rise even higher in the coming weeks.

Numerous prior attempts by the mayor and commission to establish either long-term financing for capital improvement projects or a stormwater utility fee have ended in failure.

CIAC chairman Larry Albert said that the $1.6 million estimate was made nearly two years ago. The cost now is probably well over $2 million "and going up every day," he added.

Nonetheless, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the $2.23 million budget without a provision for debt service, with outgoing Commissioner Carol Ann Magill casting the dissenting vote.

The commission slashed $110,000 out of the proposed budget by opting not to dredge Lake LaVista this year, even though the project involves a matching grant. Commissioners did, however, agree to spend $106,000 to extend the Lake LaVista jetty.

Residents attending meetings at city hall won't be sitting in comfort as planned in the original budget. The commission decided the current hard-seat and hard-back folding chairs are good enough and cut the $8,000 proposed for new chairs for public seating. Funding for the city engineer and city planner was also cut, but city hall will get a new roof for $60,000.


$3.1 million Bradenton Beach budget passes

A spending plan for the next fiscal year has been approved without much comment by citizens or commissioners in Bradenton Beach.

City commissioners unanimously approved a budget and property tax levy for fiscal year 2005-06 last Thursday. No one from the public spoke on the issue.

Next year's budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1, is $3,155,023, up from the current $2,738,119. The property tax rate has dropped from the current 2.4932 mill to 2.4902. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.

The city taxes for a home valued at $525,000, taking advantage of the homestead exemption, would be $1,245.

City property value increases are up significantly from the current budget year to next - the property tax assessments rose from $434,981,500 to $547,400,323 in the past year.

That increase means that the "roll-back rate," or the tax the city would levy to bring in the same amount of dollars next year versus this year, is actually up 26.55 percent, although the actual millage is down slightly. Other revenue to the city comes from fees and other taxes.

The budget has few surprises from the current operating plan for the city. Some departments have been combined or shifted- the parks department is now included in the facilities management division, for example - but overall expenditures are up across the board – only slightly.

Highlights of the budget:

Police department for fiscal year 2005-06: $810,255, down from the current $812,048.

Administration for fiscal year 2005-06: $385,567, down from the current $396,700.

Planning and development for fiscal year 2005-06: $242,252, up from the current $188,262. Much of the increase is due to additional staff within the department.

Facilities management for fiscal year 2005-06: $151,096, up from the current $51,204.

Stormwater management for fiscal year 2005-06: $128,687, up from the current $79,445.

Streets and roads for fiscal year 2005-06: $134,721, down from the current $178,242.

Sanitation department for fiscal year 2005-06: $333,447, up from the current $325,000.

Capital improvement projects total $782,828, and include other funding sources and transfers for a new bike lane at the south end of the city at $250,000 and pier renovations at $200,000, both of which are from outside funding sources.


Budget up, taxes down in Holmes Beach

Holmes Beach property owners should have a little more left in their pocketbooks after paying their property taxes for the 2005-06 fiscal year.

The Holmes Beach City Commission at its Sept. 20 budget hearing unanimously agreed to lower the city's millage rate to 1.9 mills, down from the current 2.0 millage rate. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of a property, less any exemptions.

At the same time, commissioners approved a record $10.14 million budget, but that figure is somewhat misleading, said City Treasurer Rick Ashley. The city is funding construction of new Key Royale Bridge in the budget, and has a pledge by the Florida Department of Transportation to refund that money from the DOT budget within the next few years.

While the budget is a 20.6 percent spending increase from the $8.4 million for 2004-05, it also includes a rise in ad valorem revenues of 20.64 percent. With the additional revenues, the city will be increasing its reserve fund to $1.75 million, Ashley said.

Resident Joan Perry, however, objected to the budget. No matter how one looks at it, she said, "This is a tax increase on the citizens of Holmes Beach."

She suggested the commission remove funding of the Key Royale Bridge from the budget and get the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization to live up to its prior commitment to fund the project.

Perry also claimed Mayor Carol Whitmore has said previously she wants to provide services for "rich people."

Whitmore objected, stating that she had only said that people who move to Holmes Beach "expect services" and that's why they come to the city.

Perry also said the city is spending too much money attempting to revise its land development codes before rewriting the city's comprehensive plan. The correct procedure, she said, is to first revise the comp plan, then tackle the LDC.

The commission, however, voted 5-0 to approve the budget.