The majority of the Longboat Key Town Commission took a stand against increasing the tax rate at its Monday, July 6 regular meeting.
Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann, following Commissioner George Spoll’s stance at a previous meeting, led the charge Monday to adopt a maximum millage rate of 1.6 mills.
However, neither commissioner wants the tax rate’s current millage rate of 1.5 mills to increase.
Five of the seven commissioners rejected Town Manager Bruce St. Denis’ suggestion that the town adopt a maximum millage rate of 1.6750 mills at its Monday, July 6 regular meeting. The higher rate, had it been adopted in September, would have generated the same amount of tax revenues as last year.
But Siekmann and Spoll wanted no part of St. Denis’ plea that a higher maximum tax rate be adopted while town staff worked to reduce expenditures before the official tax rate is approved in September.
“I don’t want to set a maximum millage any higher than what it would take to balance the budget where we are today,” Siekmann said.
For taxpayers, if the maximum millage of 1.6 mills is adopted in September, homesteaded property owners will most likely see a minimal tax increase. A Save Our Homes annual increase cap of 0.1% for 2009 exists for homesteaded property owners.
For example, a Longboat Key homesteaded property valued at $300,000 at the current millage rate of 1.5 mills received a bill of $450 for Longboat Key operating millage taxes last fall. This year, however, with a 0.1% Save Our Homes cap increase, that same property would receive a town operating millage tax of $480 at the 1.6 millage rate.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
The majority of the commission, however, has no intention of setting the millage rate at 1.6 mills in September, ensuring minimal town property tax increases for most Key residents.
That’s because Finance Director Tom Kelley explained that a millage rate of 1.5932 mills will cover the town’s 2009-10 fiscal year budget, including a revised deficit that now stands at $478,000.
And, Spoll urged town staff to come back with a tax rate in September that’s lower, with a goal of keeping the town’s current 1.5 millage rate, if possible.
If the tax rate was left at 1.5 mills, town staff said most homesteaded properties would not see any significant tax increase because of the minimal Save Our Homes cap increase this year.
Mayor Lee Rothenberg, however, urged the commission to set the maximum millage rate higher.
“It seems to me as a prudent businessman, you would want to leave yourself with ample cushion,” said Rothenberg, who warned that years of minimal millage increases while money is taken out of reserves would catch up with the town if a hurricane set its sights on the island.
Kelley, however, told the commission that the town had approximately $30 million in total reserves, which led Spoll to cut off Rothenberg’s pleas and push for a vote.
“It’s very clear we have a consensus for 1.6 mills,” Spoll said. “I don’t think we should spend more time debating the fantasy.”
Rothenberg moved to set a maximum millage rate of 1.6750 mills, which Spoll quickly moved to amend to 1.6 mills.
Commissioners Spoll, Siekmann, Gene Jaleski, Jim Brown and Peter O’Connor approved the amended motion and a 1.6 millage rate. Rothenberg and Commissioner Hal Lenobel cast the dissenting votes.
The recommended budget will be presented to the commission in early August and the budget will be adopted on second reading at a special meeting at 5:01 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28.
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