Longboat Key taxpayers could see a tax increase for the town’s operating expenses starting in October.
That’s because the Longboat Key Town Commission voted at its Monday, July 1 regular meeting on a maximum millage rate for the 2013-14 fiscal year that’s higher than the current rate of 1.8872 mills.
Commissioners voted 6-0 (Commissioner Lynn Larson was absent from the meeting) for a maximum operating millage rate of 2.1372 mills. Combined with a debt service millage rate of 0.0560 mills, the total town maximum millage rate could be 2.1932 mills when the new budget begins Oct. 1.
One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation.
The extra mills, if approved in September, would generate an additional $1 million for the town.
Vice Mayor David Brenner made the recommendation to raise the maximum rate to prepare for rising pension costs and other looming expenses.
“If I had my druthers, I would add $1 million to our budget for pension-related expenses,” Brenner said. “Plus, there’s a millage increase coming for pension and beach-related costs. We have to start accruing that at some point.”
For a property owner with a $500,000 home, if the maximum millage rate were approved, it would result in an additional $125 in taxes.
For now, though, taxpayers won’t see a beach tax assessment for a fourth straight year as town staff assesses beach project costs through a new method in the future.
Voters approved via a referendum in March 2011 to allow for the issuance of a $16 million bond, with District A voters footing 80% of the bill and District B voters paying the remaining 20%. District A includes all residential properties west of Gulf of Mexico Drive (i.e., the Gulf side) and all commercial properties on the island, while District B consists of all other Key properties.
Commissioners liked a proposal Town Manager Dave Bullock offered that would allow the town to raise an additional mill per year to accumulate $25 million over a five-year period to pay for beach project costs. The move would allow the town to fund projects without paying interest on a bond and give District A property owners a flat beach millage rate of 1.4511 mills and District B property owners a flat beach millage rate of 0.3638 mills.
Commissioner Phill Younger, though, proposed the town should give taxpayers the option to approve the new method through a referendum in March. Commissioners agreed to discuss the idea further at future workshops.
In the meantime, the town has enough money in its beach fund for a beach project now slated for summer 2014.
The millage rate won’t be finalized until September, following two readings and public hearings. The rate the commission authorized Monday is the highest amount that can be approved. The commission could authorize a lower rate for the operational millage rate.
Longboat Key properties, which the Manatee and Sarasota County property appraisers certified July 1, are rising in value for the first time since 2008.
Sarasota County: Key properties rose 2.99% from last year’s values to $3,400,203,897, up from $3,301,413,064 a year ago, for a $98,79,833 property-value increase.
Manatee County: Key properties rose 1.83% from last year’s values to $1,299,500,326, up from $1,276,173,127 a year ago, for a $23,327,199 property-value increase.
Combined, Key-wide property values rose by 2.67%, or $122,118,032, from 2012 values.
Town reconsiders retirement options
Fearing the town is not affording the same retirement benefits to the general employees as it is to its police officers and firefighters, the Longboat Key Town Commission voted 3-2 Monday night to provide a Deferred Retirement Options Program (DROP) option for general employees who are eligible to take advantage of the DROP program within the next five years.
DROP allows employees to retire and start receiving their pension benefits, while agreeing to work for the town for an additional five years. Salary accrued during those five years, plus interest, is put into a separate account that can be collected once the five years expires and the employee no longer works for the town.
The DROP option will cost town taxpayers $35,000 a year for 25 years, or $875,000 over the next 25 years.
Commissioners will also consider allowing an early-retirement option to be reconsidered for eligible general employees at a special meeting in late August so the town can still freeze the current pension plan by Sept. 30.
Mayor Jim Brown and Commissioners Jack Duncan, Pat Zunz and Terry Gans voted for the DROP option and to reconsider an early-retirement option. Vice Mayor David Brenner and Commissioner Phill Younger voted against the motion. Commissioner Lynn Larson was unable to attend the meeting due to an unanticipated surgery.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].