By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor
Weigh in on the city’s budget and property tax rate before it is approved for the upcoming fiscal year.
The city will hold budget hearings on Sept. 6 and 25 where the public will have a chance to voice their opinions on how the city is spending its property tax dollars.
Commissioners agreed to lower the millage rate by one-tenth of a mill to $6.9719 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If you own a $300,000 house with a $50,000 homestead, your property tax bill from the city will total about $1,779.
Your bill may be higher despite the slightly lower rate. That is because property values in the city increased 8.62 percent from last year. The increase in values adds $2.1 million to the city’s coffers when it comes to property taxes.
City Manager Mark Lauzier outlined highlights of the budget last month in town halls meetings for residents and a workshop for commissioners.
The city’s general fund totals about $133 million. Of that, about $80 million come from taxes and fees and $67 million come from property taxes. The city is spending $71 million of its budget on public safety, according to Lauzier’s presentation.
Highlights of the budget include adding a part-time karate instructor at Pompey Park, purchasing more body cameras for police officers, allocating more money to send code enforcement citations out by certified mail, spending $1.2 million on beach nourishment and creating a Historic Preservation Grant program.
One of the biggest undertakings proposed is building an emergency operations center that can withstand a category 5 hurricane.
Lauzier’s idea is to combine the EOC with a new fire station that is in the works.
The city had previously allocated money to build a fire training center and a temporary emergency center. The training center fell through because there were environmental issues with the land.
Lauzier combined those costs and with money from the penny tax, the goal is to build the center in the same building as a new fire station located on Linton Boulevard. The cost would be about $11 million total and would host about 34 people at a time.
“We need an EOC,” fire chief Neal de Jesus told commissioners.
Last year, during Hurricane Irma, which was a category one storm, the current emergency center lost power, almost lost its roof and had 12 leaks, de Jesus said.
The Historic Train Depot restoration will also receive money from the surtax as well as marina seawall renovations and other projects like upgrades to parking lots and sidewalks.
But not all requests were funded in the budget so far. The police department requested new employees including five new officers for $875,210. The fire department also was not funded for additional firefighters/paramedics and three lifeguards. A request from human resources to bring in a motivational speaker for $11,000 was not funded.
Lauzier said he kept the city’s funding of non-profits the same as the current fiscal year. A new request from the chamber of commerce for $125,000 was not budgeted. Lauzier said the topic will likely be before commissioners for discussion this month.