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Dunedin commissioners split on millage rate hike



A proposal that Dunedin raise its property tax rate next year sharply split city commissioners and led to a testy exchange during a budget planning workshop Monday.

The tension centered around City Manager Rob DiSpirito and finance director Karen Feeney's revelation that commissioners would either have to raise the tax millage rate by 12 percent to offset a roughly $1.3 million budget shortfall, cut services or draw general fund reserves below policy level.

DiSpirito and Feeney recommended raising the millage. The increase would generate $595,000 more a year and provide a steady income stream to fund public services.

"We've used our reserves," Feeney said. "We have very few reserves left with which to operate and we do not have a plan to replace them."

However, at commissioners' request, she presented an alternative Monday that would allow commissioners to hold off on the tax rate increase next year and instead fill the budget gap by using healthy risk safety fund reserves. The move, she said, would give her time to study the issue, but she warned that an increase might still be necessary in 2015.

Mayor Dave Eggers embraced the alternative plan. Vice Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, who objects to using risk safety funds for expenses outside of that department, wanted to schedule an August workshop to give the staff time to research additional options.

But Commissioners Ron Barnette, Heather Gracy and Julie Scales disagreed, saying either move would only be putting off the inevitable.

A subsequent 3-2 vote gave city staffers permission to include the rate hike as they continue to crunch budget numbers.

More details here.

Commissioners will adopt the final 2014 budget following public hearings in September. If approved, the millage increase would be the first in Dunedin in a decade. In 2012, the city lowered its property tax rate by 5 percent when most cities were raising theirs.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:36am]


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