Expect an uptick in water and sewer bills, but no increase in the property tax rate next year.
City commissioners meeting Monday approved a tentative budget that holds taxes down and uses a projected increase in sales tax revenue, gas taxes and franchise fees to utility companies to cover an anticipated $887,000 budget shortfall.
Water and sewer bills would increase a slight 1.7 percent.
The tax rate, which remains the lowest in Hillsborough County, would stay the same at $4.72 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If commissioners keep that rate unchanged, the owner of a house assessed at $150,000, with a $50,000 homestead exemption, would pay $472 in property taxes.
Commissioners are set to vote on a final budget Sept. 24. It will take effect Oct. 1.
"It's extremely important to keep the rate where it is," City Manager Greg Horwedel said. "We still have lot of business owners and property owners trying to weather the downtown. A lot of people say, technically were not in recession, but it sure seems the effects of that recession have lingered."
The budget envisions one layoff — in the city's General Services Department, which maintains city-owned properties. One position in the Engineering Department recently vacated will not be filled. And officials might leave vacant the community services director position after current director James McDaniel retires this month. He may remain as a consultant or part-timer to oversee the cleanup of the downtown's brownfields.
"We're still trying to figure that out," Horwedel said.
Also, under the spending plan, fees for recreation services, building permits, planning and zoning reviews, and engineering inspections would stay the same. Salaries would increase for police and firefighters, but wages for most city employees would not change.
Officials have held salaries in check for five years. This past fiscal year, the city gave workers a one-time pay out commensurate to 2 percent of their salary up to $750. Officials will review the finances again at mid year to determine whether another payout can be made.
"It's something a lot of companies do now. You look at your finances and see what you can afford," Horwedel said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2454.