BROOKSVILLE — Brooksville’s city leaders have honed their spending plans for the new fiscal year and were able to bring their proposed property tax rate down to the same rate as this year.
Several weeks ago, they tentatively set a rate 25 percent higher than the current rate, which was advertised on tax notices sent out to city property owners. But last week, after hours of discussing their 2020 priorities, council members voted unanimously keep the current rate of 6.2 mills.
That rate equates to $6.20 in taxes for every $1,000 of appraised taxable property value. It would bring in property tax revenues for city operations of $2.7 million.
Last week’s decision was in anticipation of this week’s first public hearing on the city budget. The final city budget hearing is Sept. 18.
The spending plan funds several city road and infrastructure improvements, which city officials have discussed since they decided last year to close the city police department and contract with Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis for law enforcement services.
Also included in the spending plan are 3 percent pay raises for city employees. Department head raises will be determined by City Manager Mark Kutney.
The city also plans to add several new staff members, including a city engineer, a special projects leader, a fire inspector, an information technology staff member and two sanitation workers.
The most hotly contested of the expenditures was providing the Brooksville Main Street Program with $46,120 for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. In a 3-2 vote, with council members Betty Erhard and Robert Battista voting no, the council agreed to the expenditure, but will require more fiscal reporting to the city.
Erhard said she could not get past the previous ties of the Main Street parent organization — the Brooksville Vision Foundation — to the Florida Blueberry Festival, which left Brooksville two years ago. The Blueberry Festival and its director, Michael Heard, were frequently criticized for failing to be transparent with financial records.
For each of the past three years, the city has contributed $51,000 to help establish the Brooksville Main Street program, which is designed to improve downtown, promote businesses in the city and bring visitors.
Three years was enough time for the program to become self-sufficient, Erhard said.
Battista has voiced concern that there are not enough business spaces in downtown Brooksville for a viable Main Street program. Many of the existing spaces are filled with professional offices, rather than retail shops, he said, which makes it difficult to attract visitors to downtown.
Mayor William Kemerer said he believes that Brooksville’s downtown can be redeveloped successfully, but agreed with council members Joe Bernardini and Pat Brayton on the need for accountability.
Main Street will be required to submit monthly financial reports and cannot ask the city to waive fees for events. The program’s quarterly check from the city will require the organization to meet those provisions.