HOLMES BEACH – City Treasurer Rick Ashley presented the proposed 2008-09 budget and said it is $500,000 less than last year. The proposed budget covers the funding of city operations for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2008, through Sept.30, 2009.
The reduction in ad valorem taxes accounts for $324,589 of that $500,000. The total budget is $7,967,723 compared to $8,470,017 in 2007-08.
"It’s a balanced budget without anything that has become real painful," Ashley said. "It came out better than it could have due to the commission budgeting process in the past where we had extra money because of the assessments going up and the growth of the community. We have not spent that for ongoing expenses. We did things that needed to be done."
At Ashley’s recommendation, commissioners approved a millage rate of 1.589, the same as the 2007-08 budget. The millage can be lowered but not raised before the final budget is approved.
"Using last year’s millage rate allows you to give the residents of the city the benefit of all the reductions in the assessed values," Ashley explained. "The property appraiser has reduced the assessed values by just under 12 percent.
Ashley said the budget is a continuation of existing services, and employees received a 3 percent cost of living allowance and step raises.
"We’re pretty much caught up on our infrastructure needs," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger added. "The biggest project we have to deal with over the next few years is stormwater."
However, he said stormwater projects would take longer to complete because they will only be funded out of the stormwater utility fee. In the past, some project funding came out of the general fund.
Outside agency funding
The most unusual change in the proposed budget is the new procedure for outside agency funding.
"We’re not going to just hand out money," Bohnenberger told commissioners. "There will be a contract for services. It puts us in the driver’s seat. We need to be more business oriented and require something in return."
Bohnenberger said agency representatives could meet with him and explain the services they plan to provide, then draw up a written agreement and bill the city. There is $32,000 in the public works budget for that purpose, and he said the funds would be disbursed after January 2009.
Funding for 2007-08 included Community Center operations, $21,814; Community Center endowment trust, $727; AMI Historical Society, $1,454; Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, $4,362; AMI Chamber of Commerce, $1,090; Keep Manatee Beautiful, $727; AMI Art League, $545; and AMI Community Chorus and Orchestra, $1,090; and Manatee County trolley, $8,000.
"I don’t feel comfortable handing out money when we have to reduce the budget," Bohnenberger said. "I want to make sure we’re getting the bang for our buck."
The mayor and commission budget is down $35,727, primarily due to the removal of $39,000 for outside agency funding, and the general government budget is up $22,741, primarily due to employee expenses (salaries payroll taxes, retirement, health insurance).
The police department budget is up with increases in employee expenses, fuel and equipment, while beach patrol has been reduced by nearly $10,000 and professional services has been reduced by $6,600.
The public works budget is down $525,641 with reductions in professional services, utility services and repair and maintenance and increases in employee expenses and operating supplies.
The code enforcement budget is up $7,876, primarily due to employee expenses, while education and training operating supplies and equipment have been reduced.
The stormwater utility fund budget has been reduced by $85,000 with the addition of $40,000 for engineering and a reduction of $125,000 for projects.
The first public hearing on the budget will be Monday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m. in city hall.