REDINGTON BEACH – The town’s financial coffers are benefiting from higher property values, but Redington Beach Commissioners are taking a conservative approach in setting the tax rate for the next fiscal year.
Commissioners by consensus agreed to certify a tentative tax rate of 1.94 mills to the Pinellas County Property Tax Collector’s Office for the next fiscal year. That figure is the same as this year’s millage rate, which is equal to $1.94 for every $1,000 of assessed property values.
Town officials expect to have $122,000 in surplus in their $970,502 budget for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
Mayor Nick Simons said if the town tentatively adopts the current rate, it will be considered a tax increase because of property values in Redington Beach, “which by the way as we know is the highest percent increase in Pinellas County, and that’s due to the single-family home nature of our community.”
Finance Committee Chairman James Hoffman urged commissioners not to lower the millage rate for at least six years to prevent straddling future commissions with financial problems.
“We don’t know what flood insurance could do to property values, and there are other undetermined factors that are not known and they are not knowable,” Hoffman said.
If there are surpluses, they could be returned to taxpayers possibly by calculating the millage rate against the values of the properties.
“It would be my hope that this commission wouldn’t take from future commissions and future years the opportunity to manage the town effectively if values were again to be affected,” Hoffman said.
Commissioner Tom Dugon suggested that commissioners maintain the current tax rate. If they get the numbers “nailed down” and see there is an excess of surplus, they can lower it. He was communicating with the commission by telephone while in Seattle. Other commissioners agreed with his views.
Commissioners are considering using some of the surplus for new playground equipment, fencing and other recreation amenities. Commissioner Fred Steiermann said he plans to get a priority list from the Parks and Recreation Board before final approval of the budget.
Other ideas discussed were giving rebates to town taxpayers. Commissioner Mark Deighton, who is the commission’s liaison on budget matters, said if the surplus remains stable half way through the year, giving rebate checks to residents should be considered rather than cutting the tax rate now.
If the town sent $50 checks to 850 households, it would come to $42,500, he said.
“It’s something for us to knock about,” Deighton said.
Commissioners also said they were in favor of 1.5 percent cost of living increases for the town’s employees. The town has four positions. Merit increases will be discussed at subsequent meetings.
Commissioners will hold two public hearings later in the summer before adopting the budget and tax rate for the next fiscal year.
Sheriff’s Office takes over code enforcement
Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Danzig introduced Cpl. Dan DiFrancesco, the new code enforcement officer for the town.
“This is unique for us. We don’t have anybody doing code enforcement in the county part time,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office will provide code enforcement services 10 hours a week to start. The commission can determine later if the hours need to increase or decrease, he said.
DiFrancesco is an assistant supervisor of the community-policing unit for the central district, which is south of Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. He was selected because he has a code enforcement background with the city of Seminole and because his schedule is selected.
Other deputies will provide back-up for DiFrancesco when he is on vacation or has other duties.
“We are going to try to take it with a little bit of a team approach,” Danzig said.
Residents who have code enforcement complaints can contact City Hall or they can contact the Sheriff’s Office.
Danzig said that the code enforcement officer also will serve as an additional deputy.
“Because even though they are dealing with code enforcement, if there is another emergency they are going to take action in regards to that, too,” Danzig said.
The code enforcement officers will be in uniform but the Sheriff’s Office is “not trying to come in heavy-handed.”
St. Pete Beach reported to the Sheriff’s Office that the city got more compliance from a deputy providing code enforcement services than from a city official doing the work.
“Even though we aren’t going to arrest someone for not cutting their grass, there’s this uniform presence and that’s part of what we do. People see the uniform and they take it a little more seriously,” Danzig said.