LARGO — The City Commission moved one step closer to approving next year's budget Tuesday night. The commission preliminarily approved both a higher property tax rate and the 2013 budget by a vote of 6 to 1, with Commissioner Curtis Holmes the only dissenting vote.
The $138 million budget calls for a 9.7 percent increase in the city's property tax rate, to 4.9999 mills. One mill is equal to $1 of tax for each $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property.
The owner of a home valued at $100,000 after any exemptions, for example, paid Largo about $456 in property taxes under the current millage rate of 4.5594. That same homeowner would pay about $500 under the tentative tax rate for 2013.
The tax increase will provide about $1 million more for city coffers, which staff hopes will prevent budget cuts next year. Largo has dealt with six straight years of declining revenues, forcing management to pare $14 million from general fund spending since 2008 and trim more than 90 full-time equivalent positions. That includes $2.5 million and more than 20 positions cut from the 2012 budget.
"We're hoping for better times next year," said Mayor Pat Gerard.
The tentative budget calls for $62 million in general operating fund spending in fiscal 2013, which starts Oct. 1.
There was little public comment before the two votes Tuesday night. Holmes had some questions for Recreation, Parks and Arts Director Joan Byrne about her department's $10.7 million budget, but other than that the budget and tax rate passed without much discussion.
The commission will vote on the budget and tax rate for a second and final time Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.