WMFR hosts first budget hearing

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BRADENTON – The budget for West Manatee Fire Rescue’s 2020-21 fiscal year is one step closer to approval.

Commissioners held a first public hearing for the new budget during an Aug. 25 meeting held via Zoom. No members of the public offered comment on the budget, though they’ll have a second chance when commissioners hold a final budget hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Chief Ben Rigney said that the budget process began in January with a mid-year update and budget conference for commissioners in late April. Commissioners opted to go with a 2.6% increase, well below the allowable 5.46% increase limit. The amount the district can raise rates is based on a rolling five-year personal income growth number used to estimate increases in taxpayer income. WMFR collects fees from property owners in the district using a non-ad valorem assessment rate which is tied to the size of a property, not its value. A base rate is assessed and then an additional rate per square foot over 1,000 square feet, with different rates for residential and commercial properties.

The 2.6% increase is the break-even point for the district. Rigney said that he estimates $7,519,795 will be brought in from assessments. At the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, Rigney said he estimates that about $500,000 will be left in the district’s unassigned fund after planned expenditures, including the construction of new administrative offices.

Few changes were made to the budget from the preliminary budget presented in the spring, he said. Some of the changes include a $20,000 increase in personnel services due to increases in worker’s compensation insurance. Due to more firefighters electing to pursue additional training, Rigney said about $2,000 was added to the training budget. With the prospective construction of a new administration building, $25,000 also was added to the special services budget for contract services.

Including planned capital expenses, the district’s total operating expenses are planned to end the year at $9,410,362, including the spending of $180,000 in impact fees and $1,451,000 in saved unassigned funds to help build the new administrative offices.

The 2020-21 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

To join the Sept. 8 budget hearing, visit the district online for instructions.

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