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Dade City officials take look at proposed $7.6-million budget

Discussions begin Monday on the proposed budget, which would generate more tax money.

City commissioners on Tuesday got their first look at the coming year's proposed $7.6-million budget and scheduled a review session for Monday.

The proposal includes the first $153,700 installment on a $2.6-million, state-mandated sewer upgrade.

Commissioners did not discuss the budget at Tuesday's meeting but accepted the staff proposals for study. They agreed to meet at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall to begin the review process. The first official hearing on the budget is set for Sept. 9.

In his written introduction to commissioners, City Manager Doug Drymon presented a plan he said is aimed at lowering tax rates and keeping utility charges under control. Among his seven stated priorities, Drymon said he also hopes to help establish a pool of money that can be used to leverage state grants that require some matching funds from the city.

The proposed budget is based on a tax rate of 7.4 mills. That's down from this year's rate of 7.49 mills, but it still is more than the rolled-back rate of 7.13 mills. The rolled-back rate is the rate that would generate the same amount of cash for the city as last year, adjusting for new construction and increased property values.

The proposed budget is up about 6 percent _ $443,917 _ from last year's.

It includes three additional firefighters and a 3-percent wage increase for city employees not covered by the fire and police unions, which bargain separately.

The proposed budget also includes a $15,000 contribution to the Downtown Dade City Main Street program _ the same as last year, but down from $25,000, which the group requested.

The budget does not address two big-ticket items requested by public safety departments.

In its annual request, the Fire Department sought $840,000 over the next three years to build a second station, along with up to $65,000 to convert the second floor of its headquarters into a combination exercise room and emergency management center.

Police wanted $1-million over two years to build a new headquarters, along with $65,000 for land. The old department is too small, according to the budget request.

In other business Tuesday, Chamber of Commerce president David West said plans are moving ahead for a Sept. 16 celebration to honor Dade City-area residents who have gained state or national recognition.

The event, he said, will show the area's young people that coming from a small town doesn't have to keep people from achieving their goals.

The region has produced acclaimed singers, athletes and businesspeople in recent years.

West said the chamber is also considering the formation of a Rapid Response Team that would help businesspeople look out for one another when times are tough. If area merchants had known the Pasco Twin Theatre was in trouble earlier, something might have been done to save the building, West said.

The theater, constructed in 1948, was demolished Monday after the Georgia-based company that owns it said that declining attendance made continued operation too costly.