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The city of Sarasota may raise its millage rate for the first time in four years.
City management suggested at its preliminary budget workshop July 9 that the city institute a partial rollback rate, which allows local governments to raise the millage rate, allowing them to collect as much tax money as it did the previous year.
The city’s current millage rate is 2.7771. City leaders are recommending next year’s rate be 2.9115 mills.
One mill equals $1 in property tax for every $1,000 of assessed value, so a home worth $300,000 would see an increase of $40 next year. However, most homeowners will still see a decrease in property taxes.
Because property values decreased by more than 10% this year, that $300,000 home would have been worth $331,000 last year and would have been assessed $86 more in taxes last year had property values remained steady.
“Everyone gathers the headline that says, ‘Taxes increased,’ but the revenue is going down 6.6%,” said City Manager Bob Bartolotta.
The millage is just one tool that may be employed to cut more than $5 million from next year’s budget.
• Nineteen job positions were cut, through layoffs and attrition, to save $1.1 million.
• Enterprise subsidies to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Ed Smith Stadium and municipal auditoriums were reduced by $476,000.
• Workers’ compensation rates fell by $173,000.
• Police overtime was cut by $145,000.
• Insurance for city-owned buildings dropped $41,000.
• Insurance for city-owned vehicles fell $35,000.
• Replacement of computers was slowed to save $71,000.
• And other savings through small cuts in each city department totaled $668,000.
Total savings are $2.7 million.
A new garbage-collection contract goes into effect in the fall, which will save $700,000 per year, largely because of a shift from two trash collection days per week to just one.
Management is also banking on $400,000 in revenue from red-light cameras it plans to install at three city intersections.
But city leaders would have to go against the advice of city attorney Bob Fournier to generate those funds.
Fournier recommends the city wait for a year to install red-light cameras, because the state is mandating the type of cameras local governments must use. But because the state has until Dec. 31 to issue that mandate, Fournier fears the city might have to pay to have the cameras replaced if it buys or leases them before the specifications are released and the cameras don’t meet the state’s mandate.
To help balance the $163 million budget, city management also wants to use $900,000 of its $2.9 million budget stabilization fund, which was created in 2007 to help offset losses during tough economic times.
A two-day budget workshop will begin July 20 and will culminate with a Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. July 21 to get the public’s thoughts on the proposed budget.
Chris Lyons, city finance director, cited state economic forecasts that project a real-estate turnaround in the next couple of years.
The Legislature’s economists predict a 6.8% increase in 2013, but Lyons is not optimistic that will occur.
“I wouldn’t bet on it,” he said.
2009-2010 2010-2011 % change
$168,674,585 $163,602,042 ( 3.01%)