At a special meeting Thursday afternoon, the Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously to keep the city’s millage rate flat over last year.
After a two-day session of budget workshops, the city’s preliminary operating millage rate is set at 3.1728. Although two additional public hearings are scheduled for September before that figure can be finalized, the preliminary rate cannot increase at those meetings. One mill is equal to $1 in property tax for every $1,000 in assessed value on a property.
In keeping taxes level, the City Commission is taking a different route toward addressing a budget deficit than it did this time last year. To eliminate a general fund deficit of $3.6 million dollars, the commission instead plans to reallocate money slated for the city's Other Post-Employment Benefits fund.
Currently, the city contributes money to an OPEB trust fund, a policy decision that Finance Director John Lege said is not required by any law. That fund covers non-pension benefits to retirees such as health insurance. Lege said that many municipalities use a pay-as-you-go OPEB funding policy, and that the city could reexamine its OPEB system with insurance and actuary consultants over the next year to reform the program going forward.
As a result, the city plans to free up $3.9 million in general fund money originally dedicated for OPEB to balance the budget. Other recommended cost-reducing measures from staff included a one-time transfer from the city’s solid waste fund of $250,000 and the continuance of a hiring delay that is projected to save the city $500,000.
The city will hold two public hearings in September before finalizing the fiscal year 2014-15 budget and millage rate. The first meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 6 at 6 p.m., and the second is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.
Contact David Conway at [email protected].