BROOKSVILLE — Realizing that its financial woes are likely to continue, the City Council's unanimous approval of a slightly higher property tax rate means that some city taxpayers will be paying more next year in order to keep city services largely intact.
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha told the council Wednesday night that since its Sept. 8 budget hearing she and the administrative staff were able to find an additional $245,000 in cuts, which would enable them to reduce their earlier proposed 7.0 millage rate by 0.63 mills.
The approved rate of 6.37 mills is a boost over the current rate of 6.069 mills. One mill is equal to $1 of tax on each $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt real property. The owner of a home with $100,000 of taxable value will pay $637 to the city next year as opposed to $606 last year.
Although Mayor Lara Bradburn pointed out that 98 percent of homeowners would see a reduction in their tax bill due to the drop of their property's value, having to raise the millage rate for the first time in several years was a bitter reality.
"Given the economy, it's about the best we can do and still deliver services," said Bradburn. "The sad thing is, it's probably not going to get any easier from here."
Wednesday night's hearing saw the council look at several other options, including a proposal to eliminate the city's nine-hole Quarry Golf Course, a perennial money-loser. However, pleas from several residents seemed to sway council members away from taking action.
"It will have to be looked at," said council member Frankie Burnett. "But we need to take a real hard look at it. It's not fair to not give it a full review."
The hearing ended a hard-fought budget battle that saw council members wrestle for weeks with how to handle a projected 15 percent drop in tax revenue and the loss of the city's red-light camera program, which was projected to bring in about $350,000.
In June, council members voted to fund $649,479 of the fire department's $1.7 million budget by collecting an assessment from all residential and commercial property owners. While homeowners would have paid a flat fee, commercial property owners would be charged based on square footage.
At a budget hearing earlier this month, commercial property owners angry over the proposed fees successfully pressured the council into dropping the proposed fire fee.
According to Norman-Vacha, about 40 percent of the latest cuts will come from the city's Parks and Recreation Department and by reducing operating hours at the Quarry Golf Course. Another $33,000 will trimmed from the fire department's operating costs and an additional $30,000 will be saved by consolidating holiday and overtime pay through various departments.
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.