BROOKSVILLE — The Brooksville City Council has approved its 2018-19 budget with a tax rate 11 percent below this year's rate, thanks mainly to the city's decision to close the Brooksville Police Department and contract with Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis for law enforcement services.The approved tax rate is 6.2 mills, or $6.20 in tax for every $1,000 in appraised taxable property value. That compares to this year's rate of 6.9763 or $6.98 in tax for every $1,000 in value.Total expenses for the city will be $30 million, compared with $21 million in the current year, an amount that grew because of a one-time pension payment to former police department employees from the city's trust and agency funds. That accounts for $7.3 million of the increase. The city also is spending $2 million on a ditch at the city's water plant.The general fund budget for next year is $5.37 million, compared to the current amount of $6.65 million. Nearly 30 city employees were eliminated with the closure of the police department.Fire fees will stay at the same as in the current year budget, and the council approved 5 percent pay raises for all employees except department directors, costing the city an additional $176,419.The fire fees and pay raises were sticking points for two of the council members in the final analysis of the spending plan.Council member Joe Bernardini and Mayor Betty Erhard voted against the city spending plan.Bernardini said he continues to have concerns about the city's two-tier fire fee system. One tier is based on the property value, while the other is a flat fee per parcel. Bernardini doesn't favor the latter because owners of vacant property pay the same fee as owners of structures that can burn.While Bernardini agreed that city workers deserve appropriate compensation, he didn't like the timing of the pay raises so soon after closing the police department for financial reasons. He and Erhard said they did not like the message that sent.Bernardini also hesitated to spend the extra dollars before the city is sure what additional funding they might need to resolve pension issues with former police department employees. The city's new fiscal year begins October 1.Previous coverageContact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.