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Safety Harbor property tax rate may hold the line

SAFETY HARBOR — Commissioners are set to adopt a budget for the upcoming fiscal year that holds the line on the city property tax rate and gives a slim cost-of-living wage increase to city employees.

After a final public hearing Monday night, the commission will vote on the 2012 fiscal year budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.

The commission also will vote on the proposed tax millage rate of 3.38 mills — $3.38 per $1,000 of taxable property value. At that rate, the city will collect $3.082 million for its general fund.

Property taxes provide 24.5 percent of the general, or operating, fund.

A mill equals $1 of tax for every $1,000 in taxable real estate value. A property owner with a home valued at $125,000 who had a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $253.50 in city property taxes next year.

The proposed budget calls for city employees to receive up to a 3 percent merit increase on their employment anniversary date.

At $12.562 million, the proposed general fund budget is roughly $800,000 smaller than last year's $13.3 million budget.

And while the city contends there has been no reduction in services, there have been staff cutbacks. Four full-time positions were eliminated in the proposed budget, which now lists 173.35 full-time equivalent positions. The 2008-2009 fiscal year budget funded 184.5 FTEs.

Safety Harbor has eliminated two inhouse maintenance programs in the past two years. This year, much of the right-of-way mowing was eliminated, so maintaining grass or landscaping adjacent to private property is now the responsibility of the property owner. Last year the city started contracting out street-sweeping.

Residents will not face increases in park fees, building permits, solid waste services or water rates.

Mayor Andy Steingold commended the city staff for its budget work, and said that multiple budget workshop sessions involving the commission and staff had helped.

"We went through a pretty strenuous ordeal of reducing the budget," Steingold said at the first budget public hearing earlier this month.

Commissioner Nina Bandoni said the workshops gave commissioners the opportunity to speak "in the sunshine" about their budget priorities.

"You get to know one another's philosophy and thought process toward the budget," Bandoni said. "You are not allowed to talk to one another (outside of public meetings), so the workshops were instrumental in helping the process move more smoothly."

Commissioner Nancy Besore said the workshops gave them time to "talk about the budget and mull it over."

The city's proposed capital improvement budget totals $6.3 million. About $1.2 million is expected in revenue from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax. Safety Harbor has a variety of projects planned with the Penny funds, including replacing a dump truck, new sidewalks and City Hall improvements.

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Public hearing

Monday,

7:30 p.m., City Hall: Final public hearing to adopt 2012 budget and tax millage rate.

Safety Harbor property tax rate may hold the line 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 8:37pm]

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