The first draft of next year's city budget contains no increase in the city property tax rate. The proposed budget of $4.82-million is nearly $46,000 less than the budget for the current fiscal year. But as the budget wends its way through the next couple of months, it likely will endure changes that will alter those figures.
The first draft was presented Monday night to the City Council by City Manager Nick Nichols. The council is expected to meet next week for a workshop to begin discussing the budget. The final budget will be adopted in September; the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
So far, the property tax rate remains at 6.2 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. That means that a homeowner whose property is valued at $50,000 and subject to the $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $155 in city taxes.
"We're trying to develop a budget within the current constraint of the millage (for this fiscal year)," Nichols said. "We're going to try very hard to keep the millage rate the same."
Those parameters may be too confining. For instance, the general contingency fund used for emergency and unforeseen expenses contains $13,000, "which is way too thin to be prudent," Nichols said.
The council likely will consider decreasing expenses, possibly by delaying capital improvements and major equipment purchases, he said, adding that raising the tax rate would be the last option.
Even if the city does not increase the tax rate, it stands to get more money because of increased value in taxable property. The city's taxable property value increased about 7.2 percent from 1989, according to the Pasco property appraiser's office.
Included in the budget's first draft are $20,000 for a new fire truck and salary increases for employees, as well as 4.4 percent cost-of-living adjustments.
It also is expected that solid-waste collection fees will be increased and that rates at Zephyr Haven Nursing Home will go up to cover projected operating expenses. Rate increases have yet to be worked out by the council.
The budget proposal thus far does not contain money set aside for a planned community center. Nichols said that does not mean the city will not be moving forward with the hope of building a center. Planning for the project will continue, but the city also will consider financing sources such as outside grants.