Town Manager Dave Bullock released a preliminary budget for fiscal year 2014-15 that keeps the tax rate flat while he and his staff continue to find ways to cut a $900,000 shortfall.
The majority of commissioners made it known earlier this month they want to keep the town tax rate flat at 2.0760 mills.
Town staff, though, received good news yesterday from the property appraiser offices in Manatee and Sarasota counties. For the second year in a row, taxable values for Key properties are rising and they are rising more than town staff expected. Key-wide, preliminary estimates revealed a 5.4% increase in taxable values, which will generate $467,816 more than a year ago. Official property values will be revealed July 1.
Bullock, though, told the commission that rising “uncontrollable expenditures,” which include a $412,000 increase to pay for frozen pension plans, are the reason that expenditures for the 2015 fiscal year budget are estimated to be $920,000 more than the previous year.
In total, the town intends to put $1,610,075 aside to pay for pension costs this year to begin to pay off the more than $27 million in unfunded pension liabilities.
Other cost increases include an estimated $100,000 increase in town health and property insurance policies and $307,285 to begin the process of rewriting the town’s codes and Comprehensive Plan.
Bullock has proposed to use $649,818 from the General Fund to help balance the $920,000 shortfall.
That fund balance is the amount of cash the town has on hand to run town services.
Bullock’s goal since last year has been to keep a fund balance of at least 90 operating days on hand, and that goal won’t be met with his recommendation.
If the commission ends up tapping into the fund to offset the deficit, there will only be enough money to operate the town for 71 days in the event a natural disaster like a hurricane strikes the Key.
Bullock will report back to the commission at its June 16 budget workshop with further cuts. The commission must decide this summer if further budget cuts will affect the perceived level of service for its residents.
For more information, pick up a copy of next week's Longboat Observer.
Budget Direction for 2015
• Keep department operations expenditures flat
• No wage increases except for police bargaining unit
• No new positions proposed
• Assumes 3% increase in ad valorem taxable values
• Millage rate of 2.0760 to remain flat
• Maintain publicly visible service levels
Budget Challenges for 2015
• Maintaining an adequate General Fund balance
• Revenue reductions
• Unknown health care and insurance increases
• Funding the process of rewriting the town’s codes
Town Manager Dave Bullock told the Longboat Key Town Commission at a May 22 budget workshop that rising “uncontrollable expenditures,” which include a $412,000 increase to pay for pension plans, are the reason that expenditures for the 2015 fiscal year budget are estimated to be $920,000 more than the previous year.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected]