TREASURE ISLAND — Despite a recession and sharply falling property tax revenues, the city managed to increase its cash balance by $881,000 last year.
"The city is in an enviable position. … It was a good year for the city financially," the city's auditor, Richard Cristini, told the City Commission last week as he presented an audit of the 2008-2009 fiscal year.
City commissioners agreed.
"That is a nice number. That is wonderful in this economy," said Mayor Bob Minning.
Commissioner Alan Bildz credited City Manager Reid Silverboard and his staff.
"This is from the city staff working hard to cut spending," Bildz said.
The city offset nearly $300,000 in lost property tax revenues with sharp cuts in public works and other departmental spending, and a 4 percent increase in utility taxes that produced about $270,000 in new revenues.
When combined with increases in franchise fees and communications service taxes, as well as other savings, the city now has $881,000 more in its unrestricted, unreserved general fund cash balance than it had originally expected.
Cristini also predicted that the city would, for the 29th consecutive year, win a national certificate from the Government Finance Officers Association for the quality of its financial reporting.
The city ended the 2008-2009 fiscal year with $81.3 million in net assets (buildings, equipment, investments and cash) with $2.19 million in unrestricted general fund cash available for spending — the highest amount in seven years.
Revenues were raised primarily from property taxes ($4 million), other taxes ($1.5 million), and charges for services ($1.8 million).
Spending totaled about $9 million: $1.39 million on general government, $4.7 million on public safety, $2.1 million for public works, and $878,767 for culture and recreation.
"Treasure Island property owners and residents enjoy one of the lowest tax rates in the county during a time when the state and municipalities are facing decreasing revenues and budgetary shortfalls," Silverboard wrote in his formal introduction to the audit report.
City property taxes have been kept at about 2 mills ($2 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value) since 1982.
The actual tax rate for 2009 was 2.4999 mills, only slightly higher than 2000's tax rate of 2.2272 mills. From 2002 through 2007, the property tax rate was actually higher (2.6272 mills).
Last year, Treasure Island property values dropped 11.26 percent — a loss of $186 million in taxable value. Property tax revenue was down by $274,052 in fiscal year 2008-2009.
Despite cutting overall spending last year, the city did complete a variety of special projects: dune walkovers, widened street ends, resurfacing 3.5 miles of streets, new street crosswalks and crosswalk beacons, and relining stormwater and wastewater collection lines.
State and federal grants allowed the city to install mobile data terminals in police cars, upgrade the city's network computer servers, and offer a variety of new recreation programs.