City discusses budget cuts

 

City discusses budget cuts

 

Date: June 2, 2011
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

Property values did not drop as much as expected this year in the city of Sarasota, according to estimates. That, however, does not mean that drastic service cuts won’t be needed to balance the budget.

“It’s better news, but we’re still getting less than last year,” said Marlon Brown, deputy city manager.

The city had been expecting a decline of 8% to 9% in taxable values. Property taxes are the city’s main source of income.

The Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office has issued its initial 2011 property-value estimate, and it shows a value of $6.87 billion — 6.21% less than last year’s value of $7.32 billion.

As a result of the drop in revenue, the city will have to cut about $6 million from its 2011-2012 budget.

Although that’s less than it expected, city staff will have additional expenses to deal with next year.

The county pressured the city to accept a new parks agreement that calls for the city to fund 16 neighborhood parks and Newtown’s Robert L. Taylor Center at a cost of more than $1 million.

Traditionally, parks funding has fallen on the county.

Skyrocketing pension costs are also a concern. City leaders say those expenses will, for the first time ever, exceed tax revenue.

City management has just concluded budget review with individual departments. In July, it will conduct budget workshops with the City Commission.

It is up to commissioners what, if anything, should be cut from the budget.

During an informal workshop May 25, Vice Mayor Terry Turner said he believed reducing staff or their compensation may be the only way to trim costs.

Brown, however, balked at that suggestion.

“The last thing we want to do is cut personnel,” he said. “We’re down to the bone.”

Service cuts are more likely, unless the commission institutes the millage rollback rate.

State law allows local governments to raise, or rollback, the millage rate to allow them to collect as much tax money as it did the previous year.

City leaders insist that is not a tax increase, because just as much property tax is collected as the previous year.

Last year, the commission voted to institute a partial rollback rate but reversed that decision after receiving pressure from city residents.

Brown said the city is looking to outsource some services but wouldn’t say which ones.

If services are cut, he said, residents will see things they don’t like.

“I get a lot of complaints about overflowing trash cans downtown,” Brown said. “It takes (employees) to maintain that.”

He said residents and business owners may have to contribute by emptying a public trash can or removing a fallen tree branch themselves.

“People may have to chip in,” he said.

Taxable value estimates show the county losing 6.31% from 2010. North Port, again, had the steepest decline at 8.12%, and Longboat Key, with a 4.8% drop, again maintained more of its taxable value than any other taxing authority in the county.

Taxable values
Taxing authority   2011 estimate   2010 final   % change
Sarasota County  $39,467,686,577   $42,128,065,358   -6.31%
School Board   $41,934,440,337   $44,696,823,802   -6.18%
City of Sarasota   $6,867,166,690   $7,322,222,525   -6.21%
City of Venice   $2,700,814,420   $2,849,902,357   -5.23%
Town of Longboat Key   $3,335,795,728   $3,504,013,002   -4.80
City of North Port   $2,270,980,299   $2,471,693,077   -8.12%

Assessment estimates
Property type  2011 median market value   % change from 2010
All single-family residential parcels   $116,700   -9.04%
All residential condos   $138,350   -4.59%
Non-homestead exempt single-family residential parcels   $96,400   -10.41%
Non-homestead exempt residential condos   $136,600   -4.01%
Homestead exempt single-family residential parcels   $129,300   -8.36%
Homestead exempt residential condos   $143,600   -5.21%

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

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