ZEPHYRHILLS — Officials presented City Council with a proposed budget that keeps the tax rate flat while providing a 2 percent raise for city employees.
The council wanted a little more wiggle room.
Council members voted 3-1 on Monday evening to set the preliminary tax rate at $6.25 for every $1,000 in taxable property — up from the current tax rate of $5.99 per $1,000 in property, the rate staff had used to create the proposed $17.8 million budget.
City Council member Lance Smith suggested starting budget discussions with the higher tax rate, noting it still wouldn't bring in the same revenue as the current year because of falling property values.
And, he noted, "we can always come back later and lower" the tax rate before the budget year begins Oct. 1.
Council members Jodi Wilkeson and Charles Proctor agreed with Smith, voting for the $6.25 rate.
Council president Kenneth Compton, who praised the financial document as a "beautiful budget," voted against the higher rate. Council member Ken Burgess was absent.
The proposed budget restores a police department administration position that was cut last year and adds a deputy manager to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, while also cutting three staff positions – two vacancies in public works and one full time spot in the planning department focusing on economic development.
Drumm is considering eliminating the planning department position because of a reduced workload and the possibility of the council agreeing to help fund the creation of an economic development group, which would include an economic development director. One option for the city's involvement calls for a financial contribution of $100,000, the majority of which is a one-time expense and comes out of the city's savings, Drumm said.
The council will discuss the proposed budget in a workshop after its Aug. 13 meeting. Public hearings are set for Sept. 10 and 24.