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Safety Harbor residents likely will pay less in property taxes

SAFETY HARBOR — It will take the elimination of three full-time employees and a withdrawal from the city's reserve fund, but Safety Harbor residents will likely see a reduction in their property taxes in the coming year.

The City Commission has agreed to maintain the city's current 3.3808 millage rate for the coming tax year.

Because of dropping property values, that tax rate is expected to produce $118,000 less in revenue compared to the previous year.

One mill produces $1 of tax for each $1,000 of taxable real property value. So the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay $338 in city property taxes under the tax rate. Lower property valuations will lower many individual tax bills, however.

To balance the proposed $12.6 million general fund budget, the city will need $582,170 from its reserve fund.

In addition, commission members asked City Manager Matthew Spoor to seek $215,000 in additional cuts.

Aside from reducing some operating expenses, Spoor found the cuts by laying off the city clerk and two public works employees.

"I'm never happy with having to go through layoffs," Mayor Andy Steingold said at a budget work session Saturday. "But I think it was something that had to be done."

In past years, Safety Harbor downsized by using a voluntary retirement program.

Former City Clerk Cathy Benson had been with the city since 2003 and earned $73,798 a year. Benson's last day was July 23.

Karen Sammons, who was the deputy city clerk, was promoted to city clerk Friday. A city employee since 1997, Sammons received a salary increase, going from $44,200 to $53,539 a year.

The city's proposed budget includes a merit pay raise for employees of up to 3 percent. The city is also allocating funds to several outside agencies that requested help.

One agency that didn't get everything it wanted was the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History, which requested $30,000 plus improvements through the Community Redevelopment Agency.

The commission agreed on $15,000 in funding plus $10,000 in CRA improvements.

Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com and (727) 445-4174

Safety Harbor residents likely will pay less in property taxes 07/27/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:03pm]

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