BELLEAIR BEACH – Last year the city of Belleair Beach tripled the fee amount charged to owners of rental properties, from $100 to $300 a year.
The increase was needed to recoup the costs of “continuing to update the rental list, mailing out registrations and invoices, and postage and processing of the fee once it has been received,” according to a memo by City Manager Nancy Gonzalez in September 2011.
Since then, economic conditions have caused the number of rental properties to more than double, from 100 to 230. The fee income has ballooned from $15,100 to $40,000, an amount far in excess of the associated costs.
Gonzalez recommended to the City Council at its Sept. 5 meeting that it consider cutting the rental fee back to $100, or even further to $75 a year. The estimated income from the reduced fee would more than cover the costs involved with rental properties, she said.
“More people are not able to sell their homes, and are renting them out,” she said. “We have so many rentals, we are getting more than double the income needed and could go to $75 and still meet the budgeted costs ($15,000).”
With the number of rental properties increasing, “it is only justified to reduce the fee,” City Attorney Paul Marino said.
Council members were receptive to lowering the fee to $100, but not beyond.
Council Member Leslie Notaro said, “I could go back to $100, but don’t see any need to go lower.”
Vice Mayor David Dumville said he favored moving the fee back to $100.
“Then we will track our costs and create a fee in line with our expenditures,” he said.
“I agree,” said Mayor Kathy Mortensen. “Kick back to $100, then we keep track of (associated expenses.) Time, supplies, computer time, postage, telephone calls, the whole ball of wax.”
“Within a year, we’ll have a much better idea of whether we are fair at $100. The fee may even go up again – who knows,” Mortensen said.
Council Member Jeril Cohen wanted to know if residents who had paid the $300 fee would get a refund. They will not.
The council voted 6-0 to reduce the rental registration fee from $300 to $100. Council Member Wanda Schwerer was absent.
Speed limit to be lowered
Later this year, new signs announcing a reduced speed limit of 25 mph will likely be going up along the city’s residential streets. The speed reduction will apply to all roads in the city except Gulf Boulevard and the causeway, which will remain at 35 mph.
Council passed an ordinance on first reading changing the speed limit. The vote was 5-1. Council Member John Pietrowski was opposed. A second and final vote is scheduled for next month’s (Oct. 1) council meeting.
Speed limits must be posted to be enforceable, Community Services Director Allen Godfrey said when the speed change was first discussed last month. Right now, there are no speed limit signs on the city’s residential streets.
Mayor Mortensen also said last month that she believes the reduced speed is a good idea.
“Habitual speeders have been tearing up and down the streets,” she said, adding that the 30 mph limit will be a lot safer, especially for children in the community.
Millage rate increased
The council voted unanimously to raise the city’s millage rate from 1.98 to 2.039. The increase will help make up for an estimated 2.33 percent decline ($8.9 million loss) in taxable property values predicted over the coming fiscal year.
The millage rate will produce approximately $733,000 in tax revenues, a slight increase over last year’s budget of $729,000, according to a memo from Finance Officer Melanie Neumann.
The first public hearing on the budget was held Sept. 5 prior to the city council meeting. A final hearing is scheduled for Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.
Corrected proposed speed limit reduction from 30 mph to 25 mph.