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Seminole property tax rate to remain unchanged

SEMINOLE — The property tax rate is expected to hold steady for the sixth year in a row under a proposed budget that City Council members will receive this week.

The unchanged tax rate combined with a drop in property values means some taxpayers are likely to pay lower city taxes in the 2012-13 fiscal year, said Harry Kyne, Seminole's director of administration.

The tax rate of about $2.48 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value will cost the owner of a house valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption about $248.

The steady rate stems from a proposed budget that has an estimated 5.7 percent decline in spending next year. That's about $897,000 less than the current $15.8 million city budget.

"It's a status quo (budget). It maintains our current level of service," City Manager Frank Edmunds said. "Our traditional services will be maintained."

Council members will receive a copy of the budget at Tuesday's meeting. They'll discuss it during a July workshop.

The savings are a combination of luck, negotiating skills and planning, Kyne said.

Luck and good negotiating skills resulted in a citywide decrease of 1 percent in the cost of health insurance. That's at a time when most governments are struggling with rapidly escalating costs. Kyne said he negotiated the discount with the city's current carrier as a way for that company to avoid losing Seminole's business.

Edmunds said the negotiations were helped by the city's emphasis on controlling medical costs as much as possible by asking employees to be "prudent" in using the benefit and by encouraging them to participate in healthy activities.

The city is also reaping the benefits of its energy saving policies, he said.

The cost of maintaining the Holland G. Mangum Recreation Complex has declined by about $50,000 a year, he said, because the city installed a new, more efficient air conditioning system, which has substantially cut the electric bill. And, new energy saving light bulbs on the playing fields are contributing to the decline in the cost of electricity.

Kyne said that's the kind of savings he likes — no jobs are lost, no programs are cut, the lights are just as bright, the facilities remain comfortable for patrons, but it costs less.

Seminole's also saving money from two new public works buildings that are run with solar power. Edmunds said the two buildings, across the street from each other in the 11000 block of 70th Avenue N, are already returning power to the grid. That's shown in the form of a credit on Seminole's electric bill, thereby reducing the citywide costs.

The city also plans to use $50,000 from a special fund that officials could tap if needed to help them get through tough times without raising taxes. Edmunds said the fund has $150,000, which was left over a few years ago when expenses were less than had been anticipated.

With any luck, he said, expenses in the coming year will be less than anticipated or revenues will be higher and the city won't have to tap the special fund.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Seminole property tax rate to remain unchanged 06/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 23, 2012 4:31am]
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