DADE CITY — Facing an anticipated $478,075 drop in revenue for next year's budget, city officials decided Tuesday night that a higher tax rate was not the answer.
City commissioners voted to move forward with a working tax rate that's the same as this past year, which comes out to $7.10 for each $1,000 in taxable property value — despite Mayor Scott Black's concerns about having enough "wiggle room" when preparing and then voting on the final budget this fall.
Because of falling property values, the same tax rate will bring in less money next year than this year. State law says the city can lower the proposed tax rate later, but not raise it.
"We're liberal at this point and then conservative later," said Black.
The city already has made cuts in its proposed budget, including eliminating four part-time positions in the recreation program.
Even so, the proposed budget is about $42,000 shy of being balanced.
City Manager Billy Poe asked the commission to set a slightly higher tax rate of $7.30 per $1,000 of taxable property value to compensate for the gap.
But Commissioners Steve Van Gorden and Camille Hernandez spoke out against raising the rate, saying residents were hurting financially.
"We gave very clear instructions to Mr. Poe that we need to streamline our organization," said Van Gorden.
"We've got to get back to basics," said Hernandez.
Finance Director Jim Class pointed out that raising the tax rate may not increase residents' tax bills if their property values have dropped.
Last year's budget was $10.3 million. This year's is expected to be larger because of utility projects funded through grants and loans.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.