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Dunedin clears way for tax cut

The question no longer seems to be if residents will receive a second straight property tax break, but how low the rate will go.

Commissioners will choose between cuts of either 5 or 10 percent at a budget workshop today. It is the second of three such meetings to discuss the proposed 1996-97 city budget, which is expected to total just over $50-million.

As they did for the current year's budget, commissioners point to millions of dollars in savings from a controversial 1995 decision to disband the Police Department in favor of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Dan Zantop, assistant finance director, said budget projections from the municipal police department totaled almost $5-million for the 1996-97 fiscal year. The Sheriff's Office will cost the city $2.6-million in the next fiscal year, a difference of more than $2-million.

The owner of an average home assessed at $75,000 with a homestead exemption of $25,000 currently pays city taxes of $240.75. If commissioners approve a 5 percent tax cut, the homeowner would pay $228.70, a decrease of $12.05. If commissioners opt for a 10 percent tax cut, the bill would be $216.70, a $24.05 decrease.

It's possible commissioners could choose to leave the property tax rate where it is, but officials say that doesn't appear likely. A resident's total tax bill will be affected by other factors, such as higher or lower assessed values, and taxes from other agencies such as the county and the School Board.

At the first budget workshop Tuesday afternoon, commissioners quizzed city department leaders about budget proposals, hoping to find additional savings from the decision to disband the Police Department.

Commissioners grilled Hikman Rahman, division director of traffic and fleet services, when his department's proposed budget came in requesting more money.

Commissioner Tom Osborne was the most vocal opponent of Rahman's requests, pointing out there are 30 fewer police cars to maintain. Mayor Tom Anderson thought three supervisors in a department of 12 people was excessive.

"We are not happy with this budget," Commissioner Jack St. Arnold said. "We all expected to see an impact from the deletion of the Police Department."

The commission sent the budget back to Rahman, strongly suggesting that it come back with a positive balance.

Also, for the second year in a row, water fees are being raised considerably to cover a $750,000 shortfall in the utility fund. Fees for the use of reclaimed water will increase between 20 and 100 percent, which would cost users from 2 cents to 50 cents more per 1,000 gallons depending on the quantity used.

However, only those hooked up to reclaimed water will be affected by the increase, which has an overall dollar value of $85,000.

Today's budget workshop will begin at 9 a.m. at the Senior Center, 330 Douglas Ave.

Figuring your taxes

Dunedin is proposing a 1996-97 tax rate reduction of either 5 percent to 4.574 or 10 percent to 4.334 from the current rate of 4.815 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. To determine what your city taxes would be with a 5 percent reduction, 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 4.574. To see the figure if commissioners reduce the rate by 10 percent, insert the 4.334 figure at the end of the equation.

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