- June 30, 2015
City administration recommended a slight property tax increase for the fiscal year 2018-19 budget, but commissioners directed staff to first pursue other opportunities for reducing proposed expenditures.
The city held two days of meetings this week to examine the proposed budget for the next year. In total, the budget is up 13.45% over last year and includes $229.7 million in total expenditures, $73 million of which come from the city’s general fund.
Staff proposed a .0905 increase in the general fund millage rate, raising it to 3.2633 mills, up 2.85% over last year. One mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed value. For a property with a taxable value of $200,000, that’s an $18.10 annual increase.
Kelly Strickland, the city’s financial administration director, said the millage rate increase was designed to reflect new responsibilities for managing parks. Next year, the city will be responsible for overseeing five parks the county previously ran. The estimated cost of running those parks is $2.1 million, though the county is set to give the city $881,0000 annually over the next three years as transitional funding.
The city budgeted for $914,000 in new parks expenses that would not be covered from the county funds or new revenues. The millage rate increase would generate that same amount of money.
City Commissioner Hagen Brody disputed the implication that the millage rate increase would solely cover new parks funding. The budget includes an additional $1.2 million in new general fund spending beyond the costs associated with parks.
“To me, it doesn’t seem fair to single the parks out as the cause of the ask for the ad valorem increase when the additional revenue we’ve received from property taxes clearly covers the cost of the parks,” Brody said.
Brody and Commissioner Shelli Freeland Eddie pushed staff to revisit its proposal and identify options for balancing the budget without a tax increase. The commissioners expressed skepticism about the need to commit to all of the expenditures in the next fiscal year, but staff said they’d already asked department heads to cut back from their initial requests.
In a 3-2 vote, the board directed staff to explore possible budget reductions before making a final decision on a millage rate. But Mayor Liz Alpert, Vice Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch and Commissioner Willie Shaw said they thought the budget reflected a level of service residents wanted to see.
Alpert said she preferred not to raise taxes, but she felt the proposal was a modest increase that reflected a new long-term expense the city would have to address.
“This is a doable amount, and I support the budget,” Alpert said.
The board is scheduled to next discuss its budget — and set a possible millage rate — at a July 9 meeting.