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Tarpon tax rate may decrease

The city won't need to raise property taxes next year, even though residents will be getting a new library and sports complex.

Taxes might even decrease a tiny bit for homeowners whose property assessments haven't gone up.

City Manager Costa Vatikiotis recommended Tuesday night that commissioners approve a property tax rate that is slightly lower than last year's.

"In general, it keeps everything the same," Vatikiotis said before the commission meeting. "It's a very spartan sort of budget, it's not embellished."

Although the change in the tax rate is negligible, the city's coffers will likely increase by about $84,000 because of new construction and increased property assessments. The city's new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and runs through Sept. 30.

The proposed tax rate means the owner of an average home assessed at $76,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay city taxes of $278, about $2 less than last year.

But city taxes are only one component of a homeowner's property tax bill with the total amount affected by other taxes from the county and schools.

Tarpon Springs has held the line on taxes for about the past five years.

"I think it's wonderful if we can" avoid an increase, Commissioner Karen Brayboy said.

But she said she wants to make sure the city keeps up with maintenance on its roads and sewers.

At least half a dozen work sessions are scheduled before a final budget is adopted later this summer.

This is Vatikiotis' first budget as city manager, a job he took over in October.

"It was a little rough," he said.

The toughest part was projecting how much money the city would collect during the upcoming fiscal year so he could balance the budget, Vatikiotis said.

At Tuesday's meeting, he proposed his almost $9.5-million general fund budget, which covers police, fire, other city personnel, recreation and operating costs.

The general fund includes property taxes, as well as some other state and county taxes.

Vatikiotis said he will present his budget proposals for the water and sewer fund and capital improvements project to the commission next month.

The city is expecting its total budget to be about $22-million, said finance director Jeff Rosencrans.

Vatikiotis' general fund budget calls for a 3 percent salary increase for employees and some new jobs, such as in parks and recreation.

Some job consolidation has occurred during Vatikiotis' tenure with at least three administrative positions being eliminated.

Vatikiotis' budget forecasts no major cuts in services, and some new services will be added with the new library, scheduled to open in July 1996, and new sports field east of U.S. 19 off Tarpon Avenue.

Figuring your taxes

Tarpon Springs is proposing a 1995-96 tax rate of 5.4541 mills, a decrease of less than 1 percent from the current rate of 5.4979 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. To determine your city taxes, take the assessed value of your house and subtract the $25,000 homestead exemption, if you qualify. Then divide that number by 1,000 and multiply by 5.4541 mills.