BROOKSVILLE — As Brooksville's elected officials draw nearer to finalizing the city's 2013-14 budget, a few key questions remain.
Wednesday's first public hearing on the budget, for which two council members will be absent, likely will center on whether to go along with a recommended higher property tax rate and fire assessments to meet the city's proposed $6.8 million 2013-14 spending plan.
City Manager Jenenne Norman-Vacha said that balancing next year's budget will require a modest increase in the property tax rate from 6.6 mills to 6.7317 mills, about a 2 percent increase. In addition, property owners would see their fire assessment rate raised to 0.90 mills on the value of assessed improvements on property. One mill is equivalent to $1 of tax for each $ 1,000 of assessed, nonexempt real property.
Norman-Vacha said Friday that recently revised figures showed a mixed bag of good news and some disappointment. Through negotiations with its insurance carrier, the city was able to save about $48,000 in anticipated health insurance premium increases over original estimates. However, revised revenue estimates showed marked decreases in projections for what the city will receive in local-option taxes and franchise fees.
The proposed budget calls for a 3 percent across-the-board cost-of-living raise for city employees, none of whom have had a pay increase in four years.
Norman-Vacha also said that more money will be available next year for street repairs and maintenance, thanks to the council's decision at an earlier workshop to add $490,000 of the city's red-light camera revenue to the $430,000 already set aside for the city's pavement management program.
Norman-Vacha said that council members generally haven't been critical of the proposed budget, but she acknowledged each year's first public hearing on the budget is generally when she and her staff are asked to find any other possible savings.
"We'll take their direction and try our best to come up with the answers we hope will enable them to make decisions," she said.
The absence of Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn and council member Joe Johnston likely will mean that the three council members who are present will avoid any decision regarding the reintroduction of fluoride to the city's water supply. The controversial issue was the subject of two earlier budget workshops that attracted spokespersons from both sides of the debate.
Norman-Vacha said that implementing the program would cost $10,000 annually, and that the money would come from the city's water and wastewater contingency reserve, if the council votes to resume the use of fluoride.
The council also will be presented with cost figures regarding the possible purchase of a new street sweeper.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.