Longboat Key taxpayers must brace for higher taxes in fiscal year 2015 to balance the town’s operating budget, cover declining utilities revenues and pay for beach restoration projects and rising pension costs.
Rising property values for the second year in a row helped town staff, for the most part, create a balanced budget for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. But Town Manager Dave Bullock says a tax increase is still needed to offset rising expenditures and looming pension debt.
Bullock proposed an operating millage rate of 2.1763 mills, which is a 0.1003 millage increase over the current rate of 2.0760 mills, in his Aug. 1 recommended budget. The town manager is also seeking beach millage increases to begin paying for a beach project taxpayers approved two years ago. The millage rate increases will result in taxpayers paying an additional $954,397 in overall taxes compared with a year ago.
“The town is benefitting through improved economic conditions as reflected in the 5.5% increase in assessed values of property and increased building permit activity with several substantial projects expected to begin,” wrote Bullock is his budget memo to commissioners.
Bullock worked with staff this summer to keep expenditures flat. The town also won’t hire any new employees, and there won’t be any wage increases except those offered to Longboat Key Police Department officers as part of a collective bargaining contract.
“Strategic planning workshops were held to bring ongoing expenditures in-line with revenues, however a mill rate increase was necessary to accomplish this goal,” Bullock wrote in his memo.
The budget, Bullock said, “provides the town the resources it needs to accomplish some major projects over the next fiscal year.”
Those major projects include funding for a beach project and the construction of two groins to hold sand on the north end of the Key slated for next summer; the replacement of an aging water line in Sarasota Bay that funnels the Key’s wastewater to Manatee County for treatment; and a technology assessment to replace outdated community development and financial reporting systems.
Property taxes make up 65.4% of the town’s revenue, and Bullock was quick to point out the budget issues would have been much worse if values Key-wide hadn’t risen 5.5% overall. Based on July 1 certified values, Bullock’s proposed combined millage rate of 2.1763 mills will generate $10,409,124 in property tax revenues.
Total proposed budget expenditures are $14,838,716, which is a 0.4% increase from a year ago, or $51,131.
Uncontrollable spending increases include $412,322 in pension costs, $20,562 in wage increases for union employees and a $45,655 property/workers’ comp insurance increase. It’s also costing the town $170,000 to undergo zoning and Comprehensive Plan changes.
Overall pension increases will also rise before they go down in future years to help pay off more than $27 million in unfunded pension liabilities associated with freezing the town’s three pension plans.
The annual pension contribution increased $366,981 for a total contribution of $2,964,985 for fiscal year 2015, which represents 19.7% of the total budget.
Net Effect of Beach Erosion Millage Increase
• Beach Millage A Taxpayer Impact — Single Family Homeowner
Gulf-front home property owners with a median value of $1.3 million will see a $1,104.98 change in their total tax bill for 2015.
• Beach Millage B Taxpayer Impact — Single Family Homeowner
Homeowners residing east of Gulf of Mexico Drive with a median value of $470,000 will see a $99.87 increase in their total tax bill for 2015.
Click here to view the Total Proposed Millage Rates