BROOKSVILLE — After months of scrutinizing every possible way to save money, the Brooksville City Council approved a $6.527 million spending plan for 2012-13 that allows for a few more perks than originally projected.
The budget, approved Wednesday night by a 4-1 vote, includes a property tax rate of 6.6 mills and a first-time fire assessment of $400,000 to help fund the city's fire services.
A tax rate of 7.50 mills originally had been proposed to balance the budget, but the rate was lowered with the implementation of the fire assessment. The 2011-12 property tax rate was 6.37 mills.
Approved by the council two weeks ago, the new fire assessment includes a $71 flat fee, plus 52 cents per $1,000 of improvements on all parcels, with the exception of religious establishments and nonprofit organizations. That means a property owner with $100,000 worth of improvements would be assessed $52 on the improvements, plus a $71 flat fee, for a total of $123.
The assessment was proposed earlier this year as a more equitable way to spread the cost of fire service by those who use it.
However, council member Joe Bernardini, who cast the lone vote against the budget, said the fees needed more tweaking before being implemented.
"I still think there is a lot of inequity to it," Bernardini said. "The way it's written, a big company like Walmart gets a huge break when it comes to those fees, but the little guy who owns a small shop doesn't. It's not fair."
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha offered some last-minute good news regarding the budget outlook: an additional $90,000 from late property tax collections. The council voted to use the money for several services, including technology and security improvements at City Hall. In addition, council members chose to reinstate a fee waiver program for organizers of special civic events to offset costs of traffic control and other city services during parades, festivals and fairs.
Budgeted annually at about $7,000, the waivers were eliminated two years ago as a cost-cutting measure and because some council members thought that they were often frivolously dispensed.
Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn said that bringing back the waivers will make the city more appealing to organizers of events that bring in visitors.
"For people wanting to bring a big event here, it's an asset that they look at when they are making their decision," Bradburn said. "It tells them that we're serious about wanting to host an event."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.