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Taxes may go down in Dunedin

Property owners may get a tax break this year, but it will be a while before they know for certain.

City Manager John Lawrence has recommended a tax rate for fiscal year 1995-1996 that is the same as this year's. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

That means the owner of a $65,000 home with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $214 in city property taxes, the same as this year.

But Lawrence's proposed tax rate could change.

Mayor Tom Anderson said Thursday that before a final tax rate and budget are approved in September, he plans to recommend a tax reduction of 10 percent.

The tax reduction is possible, Anderson said, because the City Commission voted to abolish the local police department and contract for police services with the Pinellas County sheriff.

The Sheriff's Office will begin policing the city Oct. 1. Dunedin should save $1.3-million the first year of the contract.

"You can see where that would give us the ability to go below the proposed millage," Lawrence said.

Because salaries and other costs to operate the city are increasing, Dunedin won't be able to stash away the entire $1.3-million, Lawrence said. However, Lawrence anticipates a savings at the end of the next fiscal year of $725,533 if the tax rate remains the same.

Should commissioners decide to reduce the tax rate 10 percent, Lawrence said the city would still have $179,000 to put in its savings.

"We're going to be in better shape than we've been in the past," Lawrence said.

Although Dunedin won't be increasing its tax rate next year, it doesn't mean an individual property owner's tax bill can't go up. Other taxing agencies, such as the School Board, could raise tax rates. Also, the value of a property may have increased, pushing up the tax bill.

Lawrence's budget for next year is $32-million. A third fire station, a new library, the dredging of Cedar Creek and the expansion of the city's reclaimed water program are among the major projects it pays for.

There will be five workshops where city staff will explain various aspects of the city budget. They will be held from 9 a.m. to noon July 27, and Aug. 1, 8, 10 and 14 at City Hall, 542 Main St. Call the city manager's office, 738-1803, for specifics.

Then there will be two formal public hearings before the final adoption of the budget. The first public hearing is at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7. The second is at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21. A final tax rate and budget will be adopted after the second public hearing. Both hearings will be at City Hall.

_ Times correspondent Tom Bayles contributed to this report.

FIGURING YOUR TAXES:

The city of Dunedin plans to maintain its tax rate of 5.350 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. To determine what your city taxes would be, take the assessed value of your home and subtract the $25,000 homestead exemption, if you qualify. Divide that number by 1,000 and multiply by 5.350.

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