DADE CITY — The city's proposed $14.5 million budget for the new fiscal year includes the first pay increase in more than 20 years for city commissioners and tentative plans for a single-payment employee bonus.
The property tax rate is expected to go up slightly — from $7.1 for every $1,000 in property values to the rollback rate of $7.15 — because of a drop in appraised values. The rollback rate is the amount necessary to generate the same amount of property tax revenue as the current rate.
Commissioners have discussed in workshops giving employees the bonus in lieu of a raise, but haven't yet decided how much it will be, or if it will be a flat-rate or percentage-based payment. They voted in January to triple their own monthly pay from $100 to $300 and boost the mayor's salary from $150 to $450 in the 2013-14 budget, with Commissioners Scott Black and Bill Dennis opposing.
Dennis revisited the issue at a meeting last month, proposing the commission forgo raises this budget year because of tight finances — commissioner raises will cost the city an extra $13,500. Black voted with him, but the pair did not prevail. When Commissioner Eunice Penix introduced the subject late last year, she said the city needs to get its pay scale for elected officials more in line with other cities similar in size. She used Zephyrhills, where council members earn $500 a month, as an example.
Commissioner Jim Shive and Mayor Camille Hernandez backed her up.
Commissioners have also discussed splitting City Clerk and Finance Director Jim Class' position into two separate jobs. No decision has been made. Black has said he wants to know exactly how much the move will cost the city.
This year's proposed spending plan is about $5.5 million less than the budget in place now. City Manager Billy Poe said that's because of the completion of several infrastructure projects, mainly improvements to the wastewater treatment plant and an expansion of the reclaimed water system.
The biggest project for the upcoming fiscal year will be the planning and design of a new City Hall. Poe said about $2.5 million is in reserves for that work, but actual construction is not likely to begin in 2014.
City commissioners will take the first of two votes Monday and hear public comment on the proposed spending plan, which goes into effect Oct. 1. The commission normally meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month, but is altering its schedule for the month of September to avoid conflict with the county's budget hearings. The city's second budget vote and public hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 23.