TREASURE ISLAND — Unless commissioners can unearth more revenue or slash expenses, it looks as if residents will be paying a slightly higher tax rate soon.
In a 3-2 vote Tuesday, city commissioners passed the 2013-14 budget and tax rate on first reading. The second and final approval is expected Sept. 18.
If the proposed $17.6 million budget is approved, taxpayers will pay $3.33 for every $1,000 in 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 a year in taxes, an increase of $19.
Commissioners Carol Coward and Alan Bildz said they couldn't support the tax increase.
Coward said she didn't think commissioners and city officials had studied the idea of setting up a reserve fund for maintenance and repair of city buildings and infrastructure enough.
"This needs more work. I can't support it," she said.
Bildz thought more work needed to be done to find ways to reduce operational expenses.
Bildz had suggested raising all-day parking fees in beach lots, but that idea is expected to have "minimal impact" on increasing revenue, according to a city staff report that showed that less than 2 percent of beachgoers paid the $6 all-day fee. Making all-day beachgoers now pay $1.50 an hour will generate only $4,000 to $5,000, Public Works Director Jim Murphy said.
City Manager Reid Silverboard had proposed raising taxes to help start an account to pay for repairs and maintenance of the city's aging bridges and public facilities.
Commissioners Phil Collins, Tim Ramsberger and Mayor Robert Minning all voted to support the increase, saying there was little alternative.
"We can't keep kicking the can down the road," Minning said. He chided Coward and Bildz for waiting until the public hearing to say they wouldn't support the budget proposal.
"We beat it around and looked at the nooks and crannies," he said. "I'm open to looking at suggestions, but I don't see any."
Collins said the city has "expensive assets and we need to protect them."
Ramsberger reminded commissioners that he had suggested looking at the economic advantages of having the Sheriff's Office take over the responsibilities of the Police Department but was rebuffed.
City residents also will pay slightly more in stormwater fees. The new rate will be $7.17 monthly, up from the current $6.52.