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Safety Harbor plans no tax rise

The city is proposing to keep the same property tax rate in the upcoming budget year. If the commission approves the plan next Wednesday, Safety Harbor will have had the same property tax rate since 1988.

Safety Harbor's overall property tax values rose 3.8 percent this year, allowing city revenues to increase without a change in the tax rate.

Under the proposed tax rate, the owner of an average Safety Harbor home assessed at $95,000 would pay city taxes of $262.69. Homeowners may see an increase in their tax bills if their properties increase in value.

A homeowner's total tax bill can be affected by other factors, such as higher or lower assessments and taxes by other agencies, such as the county and School Board.

Though city officials predicted in March that expenses would outstrip projected revenues, the city has had a surplus of more than $700,000 from the last two fiscal years, said City Manager Pamela Brangaccio. A total budget figure was unavailable Wednesday.

Some commissioners said they liked the idea of holding the property tax line for another year. Mayor Kent Runnells noted the city's conservative budgeting and healthy reserve fund of about $3-million.

"You can always cut government's budget back 10 percent and get the same thing out of it," Runnells said. "We have a great finance director, and we have a very good manager. She's a hell of a good budgeter."

Vice Mayor Dan Pohto agreed that Safety Harbor is in good financial shape. But he said the city may soon have to adjust the property tax rate to take care of future needs.

"I think most of us generally agree that we don't plan on raising the millage. I think we're financially sound," Pohto said. "I expressed that we need to think about the future (so) that we don't have to raise the millage a dramatic amount in the future. We need to maybe do it a little bit at a time."

Brangaccio said the city will eliminate three full-time positions and one part-time position that have been vacant for more than 18 months. One employee is being added to the parks department, bringing the staff count down from 147 this year to 144.5 next year.

Like Pohto, Brangaccio said the city will need to find ways to increase its revenues to keep up with residents' need for more services. One particularly pressing need is for more recreation fields for Safety Harbor's children, she said.

"We're a very young community. Young communities have children," Brangaccio said. "We have over 600 Safety Harbor children in a soccer league that we don't have a playing field for."

Brangaccio said other goals include hiring a second community police officer and buying an acre of waterfront property owned by local developer Walter Loick.

Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Aug. 21 and Sept. 5.

FIGURING YOUR TAXES

Safety Harbor is proposing a tax rate of 3.7527 mills for the 1995-96 budget year. The rate is the same as this year. A mill produces $1 in tax for every $1,000 of 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 3.7527.

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