DUNEDIN — A new $1.5 million fire station. A $1.40 a month increase in the stormwater rate. A 5 percent reduction in the property tax rate. A $20 increase in monthly health insurance premiums for city employees.
Residents get to sound off on those items and others tonight during the first of two public hearings on the city's proposed 2012 budget. A final public hearing and vote are set for Sept. 22, and the new budget year begins Oct. 1.
The proposed budget calls for $61.9 million in general fund spending, up from $60.4 million in 2011.
The city is proposing spending $17.9 million next year on capital improvements, down from $24.2 million in 2011.
The total proposed budget of $79.8 million represents a 5.7 percent decrease from last year's budget, said finance director Jeff Yates.
"The dollar value of our capital projects is less than it was in previous years," Yates said.
Still, balancing the budget did not come without hardships.
Following a series of budget workshops this summer, the City Commission reluctantly agreed to pull $2.1 million from the city's reserves to make up for a shortfall in anticipated fire pension credit from the state.
About $334,000 of the reserve money will help fund the 5 percent property tax cut, bringing the rate down to $3.38 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. That would mean a resident who had a $100,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would see a tax bill of $169, which is $8.99 less than last year.
Property taxes fund about $5.5 million, or roughly 20 percent, of the city's budget, Yates said.
Officials are proposing distributing a $174,000 chunk of the reserve funds to city employees via $1,000 bonuses.
City leaders are also proposing using $110,000 in the operating budget to fund 1 percent employee raises as well as $10,000 in salary increases for employees who are determined during upcoming job audits to have taken on extensive extra duties.
The salary increases do not apply to city firefighters, who are negotiating separately through their union.
City Manager Rob DiSpirito has said the financial bump was important to employees who have taken on more responsibilities over the last five years as departments were restructured and 62 positions were eliminated.
For 2012, the city has proposed eliminating another eight full-time positions through attrition, retirements and one layoff, while also creating three new full-time and five new part-time positions. Officials said the move will save about $207,463 and hold the line at 339 employees, down from a high of 401 five years ago.
Reserves have also been earmarked to fund replacement of the aging Fire Station 61 and $99,752 worth of other capital projects for the information technology department. Those projects include installation of a new network server, desktop computer replacement and training.
The city anticipates receiving about $3.4 million in Penny for Pinellas sales tax revenue next year. Major Penny projects slated for 2012 include $416,000 in continued corridor studies and improvements, and a $624,000 South Douglas road improvement project. The city would use $719,800 to help continue paying off debt service on the Dunedin Community Center.
Keyonna Summers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.