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Date of Issue: September 30, 2009

Holmes Beach adopts budget, tax rate

The Holmes Beach City Commission approved a $7.8 million budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The 2008-09 budget was $8.1 million.

The vote Sept. 22 was 4-1, with Commissioner David Zaccagnino saying “nay.”

During the two budget hearings and budget workshops earlier this year, Zaccagnino said the budget should be trimmed just as citizens are trimming their budgets to deal with economic hard times.

Zaccagnino, who is seeking re-election in November along with Commissioners Pat Morton and Pat Geyer, also was the “nay” vote in the 4-1 decision to set the city’s property tax rate – the millage rate — at 1.7549 mils.

Zaccagnino said the rate represents a tax increase to property owners in the city.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said the budget was drafted based on the expectation that the city would levy the rollback rate for property taxes.

“The budget was drafted based on the rollback rate,” Bohnenberger said. “The rollback rate will not carry any more tax dollars, and is expected to generate less revenue than last year.”

The budget projections show the new tax rate will generate $2,269,600 in ad valorem tax revenues for 2009-10. For 2008-09, the city collected $2,272,788 in ad valorem taxes.

City treasurer Rick Ashley said the rate is “neither an increase nor a decrease [from the rollback rate]. It is the rollback rate.”

During the public hearing portion of the Sept. 22 meeting, two people, both of them candidates in the Nov. 3 commission race, criticized the spending plan.

“I can’t believe that the budget couldn’t be reduced … to keep from raising the millage and the taxes,” said Andy Sheridan.

Sheridan said he is not against increasing salaries for city employees during good times, but he criticized “increases for employees at a time when this economy just doesn’t warrant it.”

The budget contains a $500 a year increase for city staff, but no step increases in salaries.

“I am against wasteful spending,” Sheridan said.

Al Robinson said the commission was endorsing “overt waste” and questioned operations in the Holmes Beach Police Department, including the staffing of a dispatch center when Manatee County operates a 911 emergency call center.

“The dispatch center that we have is unique,” Robinson said. “Our cousin to the north doesn’t have it. Our cousin to the south doesn’t have it? Why do we have that dispatch center?”

Robinson also said the city was “paving streets that don’t need to be paved.”

Morton responded, “It’s not because we want to make streets look nice. There is a method behind it.”

Morton said some streets need repaving to help deal with stormwater management, including to keep sand out of the street-end basins.

Bohnenberger, later in the meeting and referencing comments made at a prior hearing, defended the size of the police department.

The mayor said that, based on population numbers, the city’s staffing in HBPD is less than the county average, as well as the staffing levels in Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria.

Bohnenberger also said that the Florida Police Chiefs Association does not recommend a staffing level based on population because populations fluctuate from day to night or season to season.

Zaccagnino said there are recommendations on staffing levels for police departments, and the city’s level exceeds the recommendations.

The approved budget projects zero funding from federal revenue sources, $903,933 in state revenues and $3,364,500 in local resources, as well as $3,597,057 in carryovers and reserves for a total revenue budget of $7,865,490.

The biggest chunk of state revenue is expected to come from the 1/2 cent sales tax and property taxes provide the biggest chunk of local revenues.

The carryovers/reserves revenue includes stormwater and local option gas tax carryovers, as well as general fund reserves and Hagen Foundation reserve funds.

On the expenditure side, the budget includes $100,990 for the mayor and commission, $655,993 for general government, $2,030,993 for the police department, $1,964,364 for the public works department, $145,027 for the code enforcement department, $391,000 for stormwater utility projects, $13,137 in Hagen Foundation funds reserved for improvements to the city hall field and $2,564,500 in carryovers and reserves — money that is either held for contingencies or restricted for certain uses.