Saturday, January 20, 2018
News Roundup

Treasure Island budget keeps property tax rate flat

TREASURE ISLAND — No property tax rate increase, a 1 percent raise for employees and a rise in user fees for city facilities and events are all included in the city's proposed 2017-18 budget.

The budget, discussed for the first time by city commissioners in several workshop sessions, has been described as "frugal" and "fiscally conservative."

Residents will have their first opportunity to publicly give their opinion at hearings on Sept. 5 and 19.

The $24.3 million total budget includes a property tax rate the same as last year's: $3.33 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value. Many property owners' tax bills will go up because of increased property values.

The budget proposal "represents a status quo service level," Finance Director Amy Davis said.

Some of the major items included are an early loan payoff of $500,000 for the city's beach trail, $300,000 for road and drainage improvements for the east causeway and $200,000 for a new municipal facilities project.

Capital expenditures are down 22 percent because of the timing of specific projects. There is a 3 percent increase in personnel costs to cover wage, benefits and insurance increases, Davis said.

A revamping of user fees citywide for things like beach event permits and facility rentals will generate an estimated $20,000 more in revenue, she said.

The city's biggest challenge, Davis said, is paying the increasing costs of repair and maintenance of the city's aging bridges and causeway.

"The major capital maintenance projects are currently unfunded because there is not enough funding in any of the city's current funding sources to absorb these costs," Davis said.

The city has hired experts to study the situation and suggest a financial plan to pay for the bridge, including possibly reinstituting a toll.

If the plan includes a property tax increase, Davis is suggesting a gradual increase beginning in 2019.

Mayor Robert Minning said his initial take on the budget is "it looks great."

"There's no (tax rate) increase which is always good," he said.

Until a financial plan is developed for the bridges and causeway, Minning thinks it is wise to wait on a possible increase.

"It (infrastructure costs) is not going away but it is premature to put in a tax increase, we need to look at our options," he said. "We are not burying our heads in the sand, we need to see what the experts are advising."

Commissioner Deborah Toth also likes many aspects of the budget proposal.

"It is leading us in a very fiscally conservative way because we need to rein in some of our costs," she said.

Toth supports increasing user fees for city facilities and events.

"We are lower on some of our fees than some in surrounding communities," she said. "Some haven't been looked at in a while."

Along with the 1 percent across-the-board pay increase for employees, the budget also includes a possible 1 to 4 percent merit increase.

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