Longboat Key plans to add to its rainy-day fund this budget year as the town prepares for slower growth in overall property values in the coming years, according to a preliminary town budget.
Property values across the island, a key measure in budget calculations and setting a property tax rate, grew at about 3.68% during the past year — shallower growth than years past but steeper than an early 3% forecast from the town.
The growth in property values gives the town an estimated $12,152,599 in property taxes. That’s $424,402 more in revenue than it received in fiscal year 2018. Operating expenses for the 2018-2019 fiscal year amounts to $16.62 million. The tax rate for this year has been steady at 2.1144 mills, the rate the town has had for the past two years. One mill equals $1 of taxes for every $1,000 of taxable value.
The additional revenue over the town’s 3% estimated increase gives the municipality more money to contribute to operating expenses — such as annual pay raises and increases in the cost of insurance — as it prepares to keep property taxes flat.
“It’s a little bit higher than what we thought it would be,” said Town Manager Tom Harmer. “We’re having to use less savings to balance the budget.”
Harmer said this extra bit of revenue that wasn’t expected creates an opportunity for the town to add more money to its fund balance — or savings account — which amounts to about 150 days’ worth of operating expenses, up from 137 days last year.
Property values on Longboat Key have increased by about 5% each year for the past three years, a boost that precipitated an additional $589,104 in revenue for the town in fiscal year 2017-2018, which ends Oct. 1.
That boost in property values has given the town latitude to lower or maintain property tax rates since 2014, when property owners added an additional $954,397 to the town’s coffers.
Property values have been increasing on Longboat Key since 2013, according to town documents. Prior to 2013, property values were falling and taxes were increased.
What’s in the budget
The town’s budget works as an outline for how the town will operate in the coming year — everything from who works where to what projects it’ll undertake.
And although the millage rate is unchanged, much has changed with the town’s trajectory in its proposed 2018-2019 budget:
- Funding in the amount of $60,000 has been secured from Manatee County to pay for an increased police presence on the north end of the island. The appropriation is one step in part of a larger effort from Manatee County to protect the north end from environmental and recreational disturbances.
- The town has earmarked $170,000 for interim protective measures to counteract erosion on the north end of Longboat Key. Subtropical Storm Alberto May 26 caused significant sand loss on Greer Island, eroding an access trail cut earlier this year for emergency responders.
- Manatee County surtax has been earmarked for new valves on many of the town’s stormwater drains. The new valves — at least one of which has been installed on the island already — are designed to keep seawater from flowing up drainage pipes, which causes streets to flood with unusual water events or high tides.
- The Code Enforcement Department has been moved from the Police Department to the Planning, Zoning and Building Department. A support position for code enforcement, which has one officer, has also been established in the new budget. This will give Code Enforcement Officer Chris Elbon more time for inspections.
- Money to pay a special magistrate — a local government lawyer hired to arbitrate code enforcement appeals — has been budgeted as the code enforcement board prepares to terminate next year.
- The town “repurposed” $40,000 to pay for planning of a new recreation center at Bayfront Park, satisfying a call from residents earlier this year to begin the process of replacing the decades-old building at the site.
- Emergency management training has been shifted to Longboat Key Fire Rescue, making the fire chief the town’s emergency response manager.
- Demolition of the Amore Restaurant, in preparation of constructing an arts, cultural and education center, has been expedited by a grant from Sarasota County. The town plans to use the land for outdoor functions before a new structure is built.