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City endorses proposed budget, tax increase

A divided City Commission voted 3-2 in support of staff’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019, which includes an increase in property tax rates.

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  • | 2:01 p.m. July 10, 2018
The city will finalize the budget and millage rate in September.
The city will finalize the budget and millage rate in September.
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The city is poised to raise its property tax rates for the first time in five years following a budget meeting Monday.

The City Commission voted 3-2 in support of staff’s proposed $229 million budget for fiscal year 2018-19. The planned expenditures represent a 13.3% increase over last year’s budget.

The city’s general fund budget is set to grow from $66.8 million to $73 million, a 9.3% increase. To cover an $875,000 budget gap, the city is proposing a general fund millage rate increase from 3.1728 to 3.2632.

The revenue generated from the 2.9% increase — $914,546 — would equal the city’s projected expenses for managing parks that were previously under county control. The millage rate increase would represent an additional $18.08 in taxes on a property with a taxable value of $200,000.

At earlier budget meetings, the commission directed staff to research opportunities for cutting the budget to avoid a millage rate increase. Staff proposed two possible budget reductions: the elimination of $250,000 set aside for police body cameras, and the elimination of $100,000 for city-owned security cameras. The changes would not balance the budget on their own.

In lieu of a tax increase, staff said the city could use reserve funds to balance the budget, though Financial Administration Director Kelly Strickland recommended against that option. 

Commissioners Shelli Freeland Eddie and Hagen Brody voted against the proposed budget, still arguing the city should cut proposed expenditures rather than raise taxes. Freeland Eddie presented a series of potential cuts that included the elimination of four full-time and four part-time positions proposed for the city’s parks department.

“We can’t fund everything this year,” Eddie said.

Mayor Liz Alpert, Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Willie Shaw voted in favor of the budget. The commissioners said they believe staff had included reasonable spending increases, and Alpert expressed concern that Freeland Eddie’s budget cuts would represent an inadequate level of service for residents.

“I think this goes too far, and it doesn’t really cover what we need to have covered,” Alpert said of Freeland Eddie’s proposal.

The commission will officially set a maximum millage rate for fiscal year 2019 at a July 16 meeting. The board will vote to adopt the budget at a pair of public hearings on Sept. 4 and Sept. 17.

The proposed budget is available on the city’s website.


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