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Date of Issue: July 29, 2009

Anna Maria sets tentative millage rate

Anna Maria city treasurer Diane Percycoe had some good news for city commissioners at their July 23 meeting.

Taking some funds from the city’s reserve fund — currently at 39 percent of the proposed 2009-10 budget — Percycoe said she was able to propose the millage rate at 1.7882 mills, the same rate as the 2008-09 budget.

At the commission’s July 16 budget workshop, Percycoe had indicated a 1.9450 millage rate was needed to meet the proposed budget.

But that was with a 39 percent reserve fund. By taking some funds from that account, but still maintaining about a 35 percent reserve fund, Percycoe said she developed four “scenarios” for the budget that she will present at the Aug. 8 budget workshop.

She suggested the commission adopt the tentative millage rate of 1.9450, then study the four options to find the one best suited to the city. All options have a 1.7882 millage rate, and Percycoe said city auditor Ed Leonard was “pleased” with the figures because they give the city flexibility.

“Remember,” she advised commissioners, “once you set the tentative millage rate, you can’t go higher, but you can always go lower.”

Commission chairman John Quam favored adopting the 1.9450 millage rate, then working downward to meet the 1.7882 rate.

Commissioners Chuck Webb and Jo Ann Mattick both agreed, noting the 1.9450 tentative millage rate gives the commission many options to lower its spending.

Commissioner Dale Woodland, however, disagreed. He suggested the city start at 1.7882 and take what it needs from the reserve fund.

The economy is now in an “emergency” state, he said, and the city’s use of reserve funds is “now warranted.”

City resident Jim Conoly noted that, while the city is trying to keep taxes the same as last year, the Manatee County property appraiser is raising taxes by 3 percent in the face of a 10 percent decline in real estate values in the county.

Webb, an attorney, explained that state law gives the property appraiser the right to raise taxes a maximum of 3 percent in years when property values have declined.

He said that city taxes account for less than 10 percent of a homeowner’s tax bill. Other taxes include county property taxes, school district taxes and fire district assessments, among others. The city commission has no control over those taxes or assessments and can only ensure that a property owner’s city tax bill doesn’t increase this year.

 Even if the city were to adopt the rollback rate of 1.9450 mills, the rate to meet the same expenditures as the 2008-09 budget, it would not increase a property owner’s city tax bill, Webb said.

The commission consensus was to work toward a 1.7882 millage rate, but it adopted the 1.9450 rate to give flexibility in dealing with line items in the budget.

The first public hearing on the budget will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at Anna Maria City Hall, 1009 Gulf Drive.

In other business, the commission approved a resolution enabling Mayor Fran Barford to go to the Manatee County Commission and ask that it include the city’s Tampa Bay shoreline from the Rod & Reel Pier to Bean Point in the county’s next beach renourishment project.

Barford said because the Florida Department of Environmental Protection now considers this area as “critically eroded beach” rather than an eroded inlet, the area is eligible for state and federal funding in the next Islandwide beach renourishment project.

Planning for the project is under way, but Barford said she needs the resolution to have the county “initiate the required studies” to include this area in the renourishment.

 That area is “now in the mix” for renourishment, Barford said.

In response to a question from Woodland, Barford said the bayside renourishment effort might not be sand. Marine engineers working for Manatee County have suggested groins or T-end joints to stabilize the beach for the area, she said.

Mattick praised Barford’s efforts to get this area included in beach renourishment funding.

“She’s been spearheading this a long time and stayed on top of it. She really deserves a ‘thank you,’” Mattick said.

Barford said that U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R.-Longboat Key) and state Rep. Bill Galvano (R.-Bradenton) also deserve credit.

The commission got some more good news when Barford said she and Percycoe were able to obtain a $5,000 grant from the Justice Assistance Grant Program for a new ATV. Unfortunately, a $17,000 grant request for a boat to use by law enforcement and city staff on the city’s coastal waters was rejected.

Commissioners also approved a $5,200 contract with M.T. Causley Inc. for structural inspection services at the city pier and approved a new annual contract for building official services with Causley.

The building official services contract of $130,000 is the same amount for Causley as the 2008-09 budget.

Barford also recognized the contributions of long-time city resident Elizabeth Moss and her late husband Gene, saying the city has renamed the alley behind the Moss house on Willow Street as “Moss Alley.”

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