ANNA MARIA – The spirit of cooperation reigned after commissioners initially disagreed on the tentative millage rate for the 2010-11 budget.
After four motions and four votes, they settled on 2.05, which can be reduced during the budget process, but not increased.
Discussion began when Chair Chuck Webb pointed out that the millage rate has dropped from 2.0 to 1.7882 since 2007, and that property values also have dropped.
"There's less income to the city, and how that's balanced out is we've been taking money from the reserves," he explained. "One of the goals of the commission was to make sure we collected enough tax funds to build the reserve back up."
He said another issue is financing the purchase of six lots at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.
Commissioner John Quam said he supports a 2.0 millage rate, but would not include the lot purchase in the budget.
Finance Director Diane Percycoe said she included $225,000 to build the reserve in a proposed budget that she presented at a recent work session, but if the city purchases the lots, the money could come out of that line item.
Webb suggested setting a rate higher than 2.0 in order to include the lot purchase.
Jo Ann Mattick asked how high they could set it, and Percycoe said 10 mils, but a millage of 2.4 or above would require a super majority vote. She said 2.1 would allow for a cushion.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said he would not favor going above 2.0 and added, "If I thought the city would end up paying for those six lots100 percent, I wouldn't support that.
"If it's not going to be a public/private partnership or some other mechanism to supplement the city's portion, I wouldn't pursue it."
"That's pie in the sky," Webb declared. "I haven't seen anyone coming in here to give us money. I'd pay $50 to $100 more a year to get the lots, and others who have approached me have all said the same thing."
Mayor Mike Selby stressed that with the August deadlines on the lot purchase, there's not enough time to raise private money.
"If we purchase the lots, the principal payment will be set," Percycoe pointed out. "If people donate, the payment won't go down; we'll just pay it off sooner."
Next came motions for millage rates of 2.2 (Mattick and Webb, yes, and Woodland and Quam, no), 2.0 (Mattick and Webb, no, and Woodland and Quam, yes) and 2.1 (Mattick and Webb, yes, and Woodland and Quam, no). The tie votes were due to the absence of Commissioner Gene Aubry.
They reached a compromise on a millage of 2.05 with Woodland dissenting. They also set the first public hearing on the budget for Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m.
The next budget work sessioon is Thursday, Aug. 4, at 6 p.m.