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Date of Issue: September 13, 2007

Holmes Beach budget hearing draws 1 citizen

Proposed Holmes Beach 2007-08 fiscal year budget
Revenue/carryover

  • Federal sources: zero (0 in 2006-07).
  • State sources: $1,038,514 ($1,064,235).
  • Local sources: $3,722,177 ($4,131,307).
  • Carryovers/reserves: $3,709,326 ($7,038,361).
  • Total revenue budget: $8,470,017 ($12,233,903).

Expenditures

  • Mayor/commission: $197,472 ($223,027 in 2006-07).
  • General government: $635,543 ($634,278).
  • Code enforcement: $134,420 ($130,090).
  • Police: $1,965,469 ($1,991,197).
  • Public works: $2,583,476 ($6,351,166*).
  • Hagen Trust Funds: $33,137 ($33,145).
  • Stormwater utility: $335,000 ($415,000).
  • Carryovers/reserves: $2,585,500 ($2,456,000).
  • Total expenditure budget: $8,470,017 ($12,233,903*).
    Millage rate
  • The proposed property tax for Holmes Beach is 1.5989 mills per $1,000, which is a 9 percent decrease from the roll back rate of 1.7571.
*Amount includes the Key Royale Bridge project, which was later reimbursed by the state.

Holmes Beach’s first public hearing on a proposed $8.5 million budget for the next fiscal year drew one citizen to the gallery.

The Sept. 4 hearing lasted less than 15 minutes and resulted in the city commission approving the first readings on ordinances establishing a millage rate and a 2007-08 fiscal year budget.

The citizen who attended the hearing, real estate agent and tax reform activist Barry Gould, said he was disheartened by the lack of public interest as he praised Holmes Beach officials for showing budget restraint.

“I’m just shocked,” Gould said, referring to the “empty room.” “As important a night as this is.”

He continued, “I think the city of Holmes Beach has done a great job, been fiscally responsible.... I think right now you’ve taken responsibility for recognizing there’s less money in the future and less money next year.”

When the hearing opened at 6:30 p.m., not even Gould was in attendance. Present were Commissioners Pat Geyer, Sandy Haas-Martens, Pat Morton, John Monetti and David Zaccagnino, Zaccagnino’s young daughter, Holmes Beach treasurer Rick Ashley, city clerk Brooke Bennett, police chief Jay Romine and two reporters.

Ashley reminded commissioners of the proposed millage rate - 1.5989 mills per $1,000, which is a 9 percent decrease from the roll-back rate of 1.7571.

A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of property less any exemptions. This rate can be lowered through the adoption of the budget at public hearings on the spending plan, but it cannot be raised by elected officials.

Ashley crafted the budget to comply with a request from the mayor early in the year to prepare a rollback budget, but also to meet mandates in a tax reform package approved during a special session of the Florida Legislature. State lawmakers required cities and counties to cut taxes in the 2007-08 fiscal year to the 2006-07 revenue levels and to then make an additional cut based on a formula analyzing taxing performance during the most recent five years. The package also proposed a constitutional amendment creating a “super exemption” to replace the “Save our Homes” exemption. Voters will consider the amendment in January, during the presidential preference primary.

Holmes Beach’s proposed budget anticipates $8,470,017 in revenues and carryovers, with $3.7 million coming from local sources, primarily property taxes.

The budget contains $8.4 million in expenditures, including $2,583,476 for the public works department and $1,965,469 for the police department.

The largest costs in the public works budget are personnel, $723,401; capital improvements, $695,000; professional services, $683,000; repairs and maintenance, $140,000; and utility services, $100,000.

The police department expenses include about $1 million in salaries, $124,000 in insurance, $75,000 in operating supplies and $55,000 in equipment, including a $27,000 vehicle.

The proposed budget contains $335,000 for stormwater utility improvements compared to $415,000 budgeted for this year. Planned capital improvements include beautification, $10,000; trolley shelters, $20,000; the Grassy Point Preserve project, $40,000; Marina Drive improvements, $200,000; basin improvements, $210,000; and transportation improvements under the local option gas tax, $215,000.

Code enforcement expenses are budgeted at $134,420, about $4,000 more than this year. The budget includes $75,151 for salaries.

General government expenses also are increased slightly in the proposed budget, from $634,278 this year to $635,543 in 2007-08. The largest expense in this category is for personnel - $317,143, including $223,853 in salaries. Professional services, which include the city’s legal expenses, are budgeted at $172,500.

The proposed budget for the mayor and city commission is $197,472 compared to $223,027 this year. This category contains $100,000 for contingencies. The budget also contains a salary increase for future elected officials - $800 a month for a future mayor and $500 a month for future commissioners.

Ashley told commissioners last week that the only change since they first reviewed the preliminary budget had been revisions to the outside agency funding to provide $8,000 for the Island trolley service.

Manatee County commissioners were considering creating a fare for the trolley to help balance their budget in the next fiscal year. In an effort to keep the service free for riders, the county tapped the Manatee County Tourism Development Council and the three Island cities to underwrite the $50,000 shortfall. The TDC intends to come up with $26,000, leaving each Island city responsible for $8,000.

To budget for Holmes Beach’s share, the city reduced funding allocations for other “outside agencies” by 20.94 percent, Ashley said.

The proposed outside funding budget allocates $22,541 for the Anna Maria Island Community Center, $1,454 for the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, $4,362 for Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, $1,090 for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, $727 for Keep Manatee Beautiful, $545 for the Anna Maria Island Art League, $1,090 for the Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra and $8,000 for the Manatee County trolley subsidy.

Monetti, during the hearing, questioned whether the city should dip into its contingency fund for the trolley money instead of cutting funding to agencies such as the Center.

“I know where you are coming from,” Haas-Martens said, but added that the mayor and treasurer reviewed the budget and recommended using outside agency dollars.

As the short hearing progressed, Haas-Martens observed, “Still no public. I guess we are ready to go.”

Zaccagnino commented, “We must be doing a fine job.”

Soon after, Gould arrived. He did not address the details of the budget, but instead cautioned the city that 2008-09 might be an even more difficult year for taxpayers and their elected officials.

“I think the thing I want everybody to hear from me,” said Gould, a leader of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation, “is that people really are suffering out there.... I think we all have to be realizing there is going to be a lot of pain next year.”

The next budget hearing in Holmes Beach will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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