|City freezes 2012 spending|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Mike Anderson|
|Thursday, 25 August 2011 08:40|
Faced with declining property tax revenues and modest increases from other income sources, the City of Macclenny is moving toward the 2011-12 budget year with very little additional money to spend than it had this year.
The proposed general fund budget, which finances virtually all municipal services, includes $3,940,993 in anticipated revenues, which is slightly more than 1 percent more than the $3,898,611 in the 2010-11 budget.
That means no frills and no extra services, no new garbage trucks or any other city vehicles, just basic services, City Manager Gerald Dopson said. Because of the tough economic times, he said, the city is having to stick to a strict budget just like families throughout Baker County.
“It’s lean. We don’t have any money in here for new equipment,” Mr. Dopson said August 22. “We’re trying, purposely, to get by with the basics. During this time that’s what it’s all about.”
City commissioners reviewed the proposed budget for the first time on August 16 and all agreed with the city manager’s recommendation to keep the same property tax, or millage, rate at 3.60 mills, even though it would drop revenue from $768,065 to $744,618 because of lower property values.One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. The tax bill on a home with a taxable value of $150,000, after deducting the $50,000 in homestead exemptions, would be $360, in addition to levies by the county, the school district and other taxing authorities.
During the budget workshop last week commissioners thanked the city manager and department heads for submitting such a tight budget.
“Most departments came in about the same (as last year) or a little less,” Mayor Gary Dopson said. “One or two came in a little higher.”
The largest bite out of the general fund goes to the Baker County Sheriff’s Office for providing law enforcement services in the city. Next year, however, the bite will be a little smaller.
The amount for law enforcement in the city manager’s budget proposal was $731,953, down from $740,314 last year. But Sheriff Joey Dobson told commissioners during the budget workshop that he could cut it even lower to $721,310 due to the County Commission’s recent vote not to give employees, including deputies, a 3 percent pay raise as had been recommended by the county manager.
“I don’t think I’ve ever come to you and given money back,” the sheriff told city commissioners. “I’m usually asking for more.”
Mayor Dobson said that since the sheriff “gave us $10,000 back” he recommended increasing the city’s annual contribution to the Council on Aging to make it an even $50,000 next year. The board unanimously approved the mayor’s suggestion.
The city’s proposed budget also includes $696,431 for the fire department, up slightly from $682,914; $609,696 for solid waste, an increase of $17,465; $571,401 for streets, compared with $561,878 last year; and $98,080 for recreation, up from $95,275.
Property taxes aren’t the only source of city income that’s declining. About a dozen other revenue sources are expected to pour less money into city coffers next year, including occupational license fees, gasoline taxes, and land use and development fees.
Total income, however, is expected to grow from $6,664,300 to $7,300,653, helped by a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant that the city only recently learned had been approved by the state. The $700,000 had not been included in the budget because city officials weren’t counting on it until city hall received word earlier this month that the money was available if the city wanted it.
“We said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take it,’” the city manager said. “We were not even aware that we were going to get it.”
Revenues from the city’s water and sewer operations, which will help balance the general fund budget with a supplemental appropriation of $198,000, are expected to increase about $106,000 from $2,318,196 to $2,424,118.
Although the new spending plan includes a 3 percent pay raise for most city employees, nobody will actually see a net increase in their paychecks. The raise was intended to offset a new state requirement that public employees must contribute 3 percent to their own retirement.
However, the rule only applies to employees in the Florida Retirement System. Since firefighters are members of a different retirement plan administered by the Florida League of Cities, they won’t get a raise.
“The ones who are going to get the 3 percent are the ones who had to come up with 3 percent toward their retirement,” the city manager said.
He said that his budget proposal also does not include a pay raise for himself or Fire Chief Buddy Dugger, to which Mayor Dobson simply said: “We appreciate that.”
The first public hearing on the proposed tax rate and budget will begin at 6:00 pm on September 12. Final adoption is scheduled for 6:00 pm on September 26. The new budget year begins October 1.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 25 August 2011 11:30|