LARGO — City leaders may raise Largo's property tax rate this year.
Then again, they may not.
Tuesday, city commissioners approved a maximum rate of $3.84 for every $1,000 dollars of taxable assessed value.
Two of the six commissioners present, Mary Gray Black and Rodney Woods, opposed the decision.
The preliminary rate, rather than the current rate of $3.65, would give the city more flexibility to deal with shortfalls this year and offset projected cuts in the future, said Amy Davis, assistant to the city manager.
"In the next two, three, four years, we're going to be in trouble if things don't turn around drastically," said Mayor Pat Gerard.
Commissioners can still choose a lower rate at budget meetings in September. The maximum rate will be listed on Truth in Millage notices sent out by the Pinellas County property appraiser next month.
"These numbers aren't set in stone yet," said Commissioner Woody Brown.
Because of recent tax reforms, the maximum rate wouldn't lead to higher city taxes for many homeowners. And the rate wouldn't have a major impact on the 2008-2009 proposed $143-million budget, according to Davis.
The preliminary rate is still less than the so-called rollback rate of about $4 for every $1,000 of assessed value. That rate would generate around the same revenue next year as this year.
The preliminary rate would bring in about $15.8-million in general fund tax revenue. That's about $500,000 less than this year.
Davis said the maximum rate would provide about $930,000 more than keeping the current rate would.
Despite a dip in revenue, Largo administrators don't expect to cut many employees. That's because the city has been freezing positions since earlier this year, Davis said.
"It will affect less than a handful, if that," Davis said earlier Tuesday. "Of course our goal is 0."
Amendment 1 created an additional $25,000 homestead exemption for local taxes, but not school taxes.
Here's how the $3.84 rate may pan out. If you own a home assessed at $200,000 this year and you're eligible for a homestead exemption, you would pay about $600 in city taxes, about $39 less than this year. That estimate includes a 3 percent increase in assessed value. The current rate would save the same property owner about $30 more.
The proposed budget is about $10-million more than last year. Officials say the increase is chiefly due to more capital projects, which are not funded by property tax revenue.