Costly pensions, projects complicate financial future
Even while doing multiple expensive infrastructure projects with “generational impact,” the Town of Longboat Key will add to its reserve fund and lower property taxes under its newest proposed $15.7 million budget.
A key economic factor for taxpayers: Dropping the Town of Longboat Key millage rate will still result in nearly $500,000 more in property tax revenues thanks to home value appreciation.
“We’re in a very healthy fiscal position right now,” said Town Manager David Bullock. “Which we should be given property values.”
Mayor Jack Duncan said the commission has approved the financial plan in previous budget meetings so this proposal will likely be officially approved in September.
Duncan said he is worried, however, revenues will have to be raised going forward to pay for big island expenditures on pensions and projects.
“My biggest concern is I believe it’s going to require an increase in taxes in the future,” Duncan said. “A lot of it is predicated on the major projects in place.”
Multimillion-dollar generational projects include undergrounding electrical infrastructure, beach renourishment and the Bayfront Park renovation.
One project dwarfs all others in terms of cost. The Town is spending nearly $50 million undergrounding electrical, communications, fiber optics and other utilities, including installation of street lighting islandwide.
Bullock proposed a $15,736,907 balanced budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which:
- Preserves current level of services
- Provides for scheduled replacement of equipment and other capital improvements
- Lowers operating mill rate to 2.1144 as directed by the Town Commission in July
- Increases fund balance reserves to 133 operating days.
“That’s a lot of operating days,” Bullock said. “Unless you get a storm.”
The recommended operating mill rate of 2.1144 is a decrease of 0.0156 mills from the prior year millage of 2.13.
Even though the mill rate was lowered, the increase in assessed values will result in additional tax revenue of $458,473.
“I am also proposing the beach millages of 0.7699 for District A (Gulf side) and 0.1925 for District B (bay side) for debt issued related to central key sand placement and dredging initiatives,” Bullock reported.
The facilities debt millage for 2010 refunding bonds, expiring in 2019, is 0.0547 mills.
“The Town is benefitting through improved economic conditions as reflected in the second year of 5 percent increases in assessed value of property,” Bullock said in his report. “Some of the challenges we faced during the budget process were to keep the budget flat and maintain our ability to fund important planning initiatives.”
Duncan said budgeting means constantly trying to maintain the lowest tax level and being as responsible as possible with taxpayer money.
It also means making sure revenues match expenditures, which will require some adjustments in future Longboat Key budgets, he said.
“I’m not comfortable going forward,” Duncan said. “A big chunk of that is our employment situation in terms of pensions.”
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