TREASURE ISLAND — Like other island communities, this city is facing an aging infrastructure and no new sources of income to fund repairs and maintenance.
As city commissioners look at a $17,648,190 budget for the coming fiscal year, they are deciding whether to raise taxes to pay for current and future work on items like bridges, roads and city facilities.
While property values are recovering along with the economy and generating $417,800 more in property taxes, City Manager Reid Silverboard is still proposing to raise the city's property tax rate to $3.33 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. That's a slight increase over the current rate of $3.14.
The owner of a home valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $333 in city taxes.
"This will help pay for major bridge repair to the causeway bridges," Silverboard said. He also wants to set up a renewal and redevelopment account to pay for improvements, renovations and repairs of city facilities and equipment.
Silverboard said the increase would generate about $126,000 to repair the city's two causeway bridges and for larger projects like replacing the bridges' lighting systems, refurbishing electronics and eventually replacement. There currently is $329,963 set aside in a fund for this purpose.
Additional money would be designated for city facilities and equipment such as the city's community center and beach pavilion. Currently there is $500,000 set aside for projects like roofing, replacing cooling/heating systems, and street resurfacing.
"Bridges are an expense asset to maintain and eventually replace," he said. "Right now we don't have a dedicated funding source for all of this."
The city is replacing the Isle of Capri and Isle of Palms bridges as well as doing a major renovation of its community center, beach pavilion and bell tower.
City commissioners, who held two budget workshops last week, are still pondering whether increasing taxes now is the best and only way to replace and improve aging city infrastructure.
"On the surface those are absolutely needed," Mayor Bob Minning said about bridge, road and city facility work. "We can't stick our heads in the sand and think that 75 years from now people will have to figure out how to pay for a new bridge. That's just not smart government."
But Minning is considering whether the proposed increase is too big.
"We could look at incremental steps to start out with," he said.
City Commissioner Alan Bildz has said he isn't in favor of raising taxes that much.
"We are going to look at the budget line by line and then get the erasers out,'' he said. "We can't ask citizens to go bankrupt so the city will have money in the bank."
Like other small cities, Treasure Island has few, if any, new funding sources and during recent budget tightening, contingency funds were tapped to prevent raising taxes.
"We got into a bind because we didn't put money into reserves," Minning said.
Most of the city's discretionary spending is on capital projects, Silverboard said, but added, "Frankly most of that is not discretionary."
He said that is part of the reason redevelopment is important to the city. The new revenue from utilities and sales taxes will take the burden off homeowners, he said.
The public will get a chance to comment on the budget and possible tax increase at two public hearings on Sept. 3 and 18.