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Spending plan eases through early test

The City Council held the first of its two public hearings on the proposed $8.5-million city budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 on Monday night, and they heard not a peep from the public.

If council members approve the budget at their meeting Monday night, it would decrease the millage rate from 5.8 to 5.6. A mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 in assessed, nonexempt real property.

If the council approves the rate decrease, a property owner whose home, for tax purposes, is assessed at $100,000 and who takes the standard $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $420, down from $435.

But homeowners should not simply expect their tax payment to go down. If their property was assessed at a higher value, their payment to the city may or may not go up, City Manager Susan Boyer said Tuesday.

In other business, the council also instructed Boyer and police Chief Steve Burch to meet with Sheriff Jeff Dawsy about the sheriff's proposal to bring a substation near Copeland Park, historically the center of drug activity in the city.

A half-dozen residents from the Knights Addition section of the city voiced their opposition to the substation.

"We are like prisoners in our own community," said resident Norma Cary.

In June, the Sheriff's Office completed a two-month investigation of suspected drug dealers and other offenders. Of 32 suspects, 15 were from Knights Addition and other neighborhoods immediately surrounding Copeland Park.

"We need to give the Crystal River police a chance," Cary said.

Boyer said, "We are going to continue to work with the Sheriff's Office and try to respect the wishes" of the Knights Addition residents.

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