DADE CITY — Buoyed by a $10 million boost in the property tax base, city officials said they will be able to keep the tax rate flat while still paying for rising personnel and operating costs.
"The best news is that the millage rate will remain at 7.1 due to a $10 million ad valorem property values increase," City Manager Billy Poe told city commissioners Tuesday evening. "We'll be fine tuning these numbers right up to the Sept. 12 final vote" on the proposed budget.
Last month commissioners gave themselves some wiggle room by setting a higher proposed tax rate for next year of 7.6 mills, or $7.60 in city taxes for every $1,000 in taxable property value. But they said it was their intention to bring the tax rate back to this year's level of 7.1 mills. Once they set an initial tax rate, officials cannot raise it, but they can lower it.
The still-sluggish economy remains a drag on property values in many areas: Pasco County's tax base dropped 5 percent this year after a couple of years of sharp declines.
So the growth in Dade City's tax base both surprised and delighted officials. The $10 million increase will translate into an additional $62,000 in tax revenue.
The boost came largely from revitalization in the city's commercial sector, said Wade Barber, Pasco's chief deputy appraiser.
"The value increase is actually $10.289 million," he said. "Dade City had gone into a slump, but according to the current lease information there is vibrancy downtown that outweighs the decrease in homeowner's property."
Two organizations that support that vibrant business sector — the Dade City Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Dade City Main Street — made pitches for $25,000 apiece in city funding to continue their efforts.
Chamber representative John Moors cited efforts to improve local marketing, tourism and quality of life. Special events will expand in 2012 to include First Thursday live music celebrations in coordination with Saint Leo University.
Saint Leo spokeswoman Maureen Moore is thrilled with the partnership.
"Promoting Dade City through First Thursday will expand their customer base and business opportunities for 60 stores," she said. "At the same time, we develop local awareness and encourage the city to come to campus to enjoy athletics, our speaker's series, and ceremonies."
Jimmy Adcock, president of the Main Street board of directors, described the agency as a point of contact for grants and rewrites.
"We prepare city brochures and materials, conduct meetings, provide streetscaping, and host all festivals," he said. "Our donations have gone down while costs have increased."
The Main Street request rose by $5,000 from last year to include funds to the host committee that is preparing for the Florida Main Street Conference, which is coming to Dade City in September 2012.
Poe gave commissioners a five-year overview of future projects expected to impact the city budget. They include replacing Clinton Avenue water lines before the county widens the road; construction of stormwater drainage improvements; a roundabout road to be built at St. Joe Road and 21st Street in 2013-14; a community center in 2014-15 and Tank Hill wastewater improvements slated for 2015.