Longboat Key police- and fire-rescue personnel flooded Town Hall Tuesday, Sept. 29, to urge the Town Commission at its budget adoption meeting to consider raising the millage rate to 1.6 mills.
But those who pled their case showed up one meeting too late.
By a 6-1 vote the Town Commission approved a town tax rate of 1.4903 mills, down .65% from the town’s current 1.5 millage rate.
The move means the tax rate has fallen one year after rising for the first time in eight years. The tax rate was previously lowered for seven consecutive fiscal years before climbing 6.7% last year.
And the 2009-10 fiscal year budget that begins Oct. 1 was adopted by a 7-0 vote.
The budget and the town’s tax rates were set despite several pleas from Longboat Key personnel to raise the millage rate.
“I respectfully request this commission vote down the 1.4903 millage rate and increase it to 1.6 mills,” said marine patrol officer Dennis Silverio Jr. “It will allow the town manager to balance future budgets and attract quality employees for the police-and-fire departments.”
Several other town employees stepped to the podium to make their feelings known.
“Over the past two years, this town has cut positions, spiked our insurance and held off cost-of-living allowances and step raises,” said Fire Rescue Lt. Dan Taylor. “I consider myself a loyal employee, but when the millage rate is lowered, I feel worthless and start to question where I see myself and my family in the future.”
Despite their pleas, town attorney David Persson explained that when five of the seven commissioners passed on first reading in September a millage rate of 1.4903 mills, they already set the tone for the maximum tax rate for the next fiscal year.
Although commissioners could have lowered the tax rate from 1.4903 mills, the town attorney said a state statute meant the tax rate couldn’t go any higher than that because property-value notices have already been sent out and the new budget must be in effect by Thursday, Oct. 1.
The new budget, including capital spending, totals $14,276,263, down $283,410, or 1.95%, from the current fiscal year.
For Longboat Key taxpayers, the millage rate for Beach District A property owners — residents who live west of Gulf of Mexico Drive — will be 2.1700, up from 2.1103 mills.
For Beach District B property owners — residents east of Gulf of Mexico Drive — next year’s total town millage rate will be 1.7090 mills, up from 1.6963 mills.
One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Before the meeting was over, Mayor Lee Rothenberg took a moment to say how much the town values it employees.
“The citizens of Longboat Key and this commission recognize the value provided by the fire, police and all town employees,” Rothenberg said. “The respect and appreciation are there, but we have to deal with some business problems that are very painful.”
Rothenberg, a strong supporter of a 1.6 millage rate, was the only commissioner who did not vote in favor of the town’s lower tax rate, which was voted on before the budget was adopted.
Commissioner Jim Brown also took a moment to address the town employees.
“It’s not easy for us sitting up here making the decisions we are making,” Brown said. “But the town just doesn’t have the money and the residents have told us they don’t want their taxes raised.”
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