MADEIRA BEACH — Commissioners and residents got their first peek at next year's proposed budget last week and got a pleasant surprise — a cut in property taxes.
"This represents a milestone in terms of millage reduction," said City Manager Shane Crawford. "This is the first millage reduction since 2007 and the lowest millage rate since 2004."
For most properties the actual difference in tax bills will be only a few dollars, but the reduction represents an 18.6 percent cut from 2004's peak tax rate of 2.2 mills.
Crawford said the new tax rate of 1.79 mills (present rate is 1.7954 mills) will produce about $1.4 million in revenue, a drop of about $12,000.
Each mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of property value. A home with a taxable value of $200,000 after all exemptions would be billed $358 for city property taxes.
The total property tax bill, which includes county, school, EMS and other taxes, would be much higher. City taxes represent about 10 percent of that bill.
Crawford's proposed general fund budget, which covers all city operations except for sanitation, storm water, the marina, John's Pass Village and parking, totals about $5 million, a sharp decrease from the current $5.5 million budget.
The total proposed budget, including all funds and capital spending, is about $9 million.
As originally proposed, the current year's total budget was $12.3 million, but actually spending has been significantly less as many administrative positions went unfilled for months and several projects were put on hold.
Since Crawford took over management of the city in January, he filled three key positions (fire chief, finance director and community services director), reorganized personnel, promoted the marina director to community development director, eliminated some vacant positions, filled others with contract personnel and required the sanitation workers to put in a full eight-hour day.
His first budget as city manager gives employees a 3 percent raise, the first they have received in years, increases Fourth of July fireworks budget for 2013 to $30,000, and puts in place new revenue sources from recreation activities and from building permits (now handled by Treasure Island).
Not budgeted but sure to be debated in the coming year are costs for replacing the city hall and fire station. That money is available in the city's reserves but could also be borrowed.
"To lower the millage rate . . . outstanding," Mayor Travis Palladino said.
The commission will begin to review the proposed budget later this month and set the tentative millage rate on July 24.
Several workshops will be held in August and the city will hold public hearings on the final budget and millage rate in September.