St. Petersburg to hold public budget hearings in September, plans millage rate reduction

The proposed budget totals more than $712 million. It includes $6.25 million for affordable housing land acquisition
St. Petersburg City Hall. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
St. Petersburg City Hall. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published July 22, 2021|Updated July 23, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG — The public will have a chance in September to weigh in on city spending and a decrease in property tax rates for the next year.

The City Council voted Thursday to hold public hearings on Sept. 16 and Sept. 30 on Mayor Rick Kriseman’s proposed operating budget of more than $712 million, as well as the fiscal year 2022 millage rate.

Council members voted to support a proposed millage rate — that is, the property tax rate — of $6.655 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable home value, down slightly from last year. A homeowner with a house assessed at $250,000 with $50,000 in homestead exemptions would pay $1,331 in city taxes.

Tax revenue is projected to go up despite the decrease in tax rates because the value of taxable property in the city has increased.

The vote was unanimous, with member Deborah Figgs-Sanders absent. After the two September public hearings, the council will hold a final vote on both the budget and the new millage rate.

Similar to last year, Kriseman’s budget proposal lists affordable housing as its first priority. It includes a $600,000 transfer to a city housing fund and $6.25 million in funding for affordable housing land acquisition over the next five years. The proposal also notes that $5 million from a credit facility approved last year is available for affordable and workforce housing projects.

Last year, community advocates called for more affordable housing funds to be added to the budget, which included about $11.4 million for the goal.

Kriseman said at the time that it would take more than one year to solve the problem. The city’s For All, From All housing plan strives to spend $60 million over a decade to help residents afford homes.

Related: Despite pleas for more funding, St. Petersburg council approves 2021 budget

The budget also includes about $5.6 million in new sustainability and resiliency investments, including buying compressed natural gas trucks for the city’s sanitation department and installing solar panels at the Northwest Reclamation Facility.

It also proposes spending $181.6 million for public safety, including police and fire rescue, and $216.3 million for public works.

The proposed property tax rate is a bit lower than last year’s, which was $6.755 for every $1,000 of taxable property. But the value of taxable property in the city increased about 7.9 percent from last year, according to the budget proposal.

That means ad valorem tax revenue will actually increase by about $9.1 million, according to a presentation city Budget Director Liz Makofske gave at Thursday’s meeting.

“Could we go further?” Council Chair Ed Montanari asked Makofske about decreasing the millage rate.

Makofske said that’d be possible, but it’d mean cutting some things from the budget.