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Springs considers a tax increase to fund initiatives

Published Saturday, August 11, 2012 7:00 am

At a meeting last week, the City Commission voted 4 to 1 in favor of setting the maximum millage rate at $4.57 for fiscal year 2013. The total impact on a single family home if the rate is formally adopted would be $45.31 per year. The impact, if the current millage is adopted, would be $14.31.

Two of the four officials who voted for it Vice Mayor Tom Powers and Commissioner Vince Boccard have come out openly in support of the increase. Mayor Roy Gold and Commissioner Claudette Bruck will make up their mind after hearing from residents.

The rate, which is 4 percent higher than the current millage of $4.39 and 5.53 percent higher than the rolled back rate of $4.33, will, if approved, fetch $1.2 million more than what the current rate would. The rolled back rate is the rate that would bring in the same amount of property tax dollars as last year. With the city's gross taxable value increasing by 1 and half percent, staff had recommended adopting the current rate.
The city plans to implement 34 new initiatives during 2012-2013, in addition to continuing with 32 ongoing initiatives. Staff has also prepared a list of initiatives for which money has not been set aside, including restoration of the city's reserves, purchase of equipment for the newly formed burglary enforcement and reduction (BEAR) unit, and renovation of Mullins Park ball fields. If officials approve a tax increase, they are likely to earmark the extra money for specific projects.

"I believe in being responsible, but I think we need to be a little more aggressive," Powers, who proposed the 4 percent increase, said. "Everyone is going for the same pie that we are after. It is very important for the city to bring in new businesses. We should have the funds available to do that. We need to offer more to attract the best."

"The appropriate thing to do is to pay for the BEAR unit," Powers said. "I would like us to plan an entryway a year. We got to position ourselves for the long term. Just maintaining what we have done is not enough."

"We have been fiscally sound for 15 years," Commissioner Vince Boccard, said. "But when revenues are not coming in, we need to take strong decisions for the future of the city. People don't mind paying a little extra, as long as we tell them where the dollars are going to go."

"The impact we have seen in the aesthetics of the city is being recognized by our residents," Boccard said. "But we still have a lot of work to do. There are many projects that are vitally important. We need to replenish our reserves. [A] 3 percent [increase] would be a nice number. Four percent would be even better. I don't think we are asking for too much."

"We made tremendous improvements over the last year without raising taxes," Commissioner Claudette Bruck said. "The increase will allow us to do many things that our residents want to see. We are talking about improvements here. The city is not dying. Four percent doesn't excite me; I want to hear from residents."

Mayor Roy Gold wanted the city to focus more on developing the downtown area. "The city has set aside $20,000 for downtown planning; I think more should be done. Our residents want us to do it. They have mentioned it as a priority. We have to move forward on the plans for a new civic center and downtown. We need to get the planning in place."

Commissioner Larry Vignola, who was the only official to vote against setting the maximum millage rate at $4.5697, said the city had accomplished much in the last year. "The city is heading the right direction. I like where we are going. The one thing that concerns me is the reserves. If the conversation is to go ahead and build the reserves, I am willing to consider that."

The city will be able to replenish its reserves by at least $3 million once the Resource Recovery Board is disbanded next year. "Cities will share $40 million," City Manager Erdal Donmez said. "We hope to get $3 to 4 million."

The first public hearing on the budget will be at 5:15 p.m. on Sept. 12 at City Hall, 9239 W. Atlantic Blvd. The second public hearing, which will be followed by the adoption of the budget, will be at 7 p.m. on Sept.18