DUNEDIN – The Dunedin City Commission unanimously approved on Sept. 13 its $73.26-million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. It also unanimously approved its pay plan and ad valorem property tax millage rate of 3.38.
The commission kept the millage rate the same, even though the rollback rate is 3.48. The rollback rate means the number that the millage rate would have to be to generate the same amount of taxes as the previous fiscal year. Due to decreased property values, the set millage rate is 2.74 percent less than the rollback rate.
Mayor Dave Eggers asked former finance director Jeff Yates to explain how the Save Our Homes Amendment sometimes will cause residents’ taxes to rise even though they technically are being lowered by Dunedin itself.
“It’s my understanding that the way those programs work is that there’s a cap in the taxes and as the values came down below that cap, their assessments can actually continue to rise to the cap, so although their property values may be declining, they may be paying higher taxes,” Yates said.
Eggers said that some people may argue that the city could at least raise the millage rate so it at least takes in the same amount of revenue as the previous year. The city could do that, he said, however, the commission is aware that even as things are, some people will have a tax increase. Commissioner Ron Barnette said that’s actually the case in his own situation.
“My value went down but my taxes went up, and for those people out there, don’t blame the city because we actually lowered taxes,” Barnette. “It is the Save Our Homes that does that. … We manage frugally here.”
“The program is not really designed for an environment where homes decline in value,” Yates said. “It’s designed for growth, and no one ever expected for homes to go down this much.”
The commission unanimously voted to approve this millage rate. It was set to approve it on a final reading on Sept. 27.
The pay plan for city employees for the next fiscal year includes a 1 percent pay increase. Staff have also budgeted $10,000 for any possible audits. The pay plan includes eliminating 10 full-time positions through attrition, retirements and layoffs, plus creating three new full-time and five new part-time positions. This results in about $320,424 in yearly savings, according to a staff memo. In the last six years, there have been 65 positions eliminated, from a high of 401. That number is now down to 338 for 2012-13.
One of the positions eliminated was that of the fire marshal, saving $106,694 annually. Dunedin Fire Chief Bud Meyer will take on these duties, also allowing the city to hire an additional fire inspector at $48,793.
The city also eliminated a parks and recreation staff assistant at $47,367 but was able to add a parks service worker at $19,459. Vince Gizzi, director of parks and recreation, said it has been before he has worked for the city since the department has been able to add a position, so he is guessing it’s been since about 2006. And since that time, the city has added 48 acres of new parkland.
In the finance department, an accounting clerk position is being kept vacant due to attrition, saving the city over $42,000. In the planning and development department, a permit and occupational license position was eliminated, at just under $44,000, and in public works administration, a senior administrative assistant was eliminated at about $52,000. In public works solid waste division, a technical assistant position was eliminated at over $50,000, and in the water division, a storekeeper job is being kept vacant after attrition, saving over $34,000. In the city clerk’s office, a technical assistant position is being eliminated, saving $47,000,
In the library, the city is keeping a library assistant level II position vacant, which was nearly $49,000 a year, but it is able to add two part-time library assistant positions, at $42,460 and $5,041. Nancy Duggan, city human resources director, said that previously the city had to cut the library’s hours, but now those hours are able to be restored, and the two positions will help serve these hours and provide flexibility.
There is also a “floater” technical assistant position added for $47,000 that will help offset the elimination of the administrative staff in the city clerk’s office, parks division and city hall.
The commission voted unanimously to approve this pay plan, and that is the final vote on this item.
The budget for the upcoming fiscal year, $73.3 million, represents an 8.68 percent decrease from the 2011-12 budget.
“For the most part, like many cities strive to do, we are doing very well in holding the center together,” said City Manager Rob DiSpirito. “We’re very pleased to keep the services intact next year. Of course that means that a lot of folks continue to work harder than ever and are spread more thin, working smarter, it’s a challenge but it’s to the credit of the employees who are providing these services.”
As far as capital budget projects, DiSpirito said there are a number of ongoing infrastructure projects such as street resurfacing, stormwater, various other improvements to facilities, its extra traffic detail and no reduction in public services. The budget to contract with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is higher this year, he said, due to rising sheriff’s costs, but Dunedin continues to have its traffic services, community policing and patrol.
Other upcoming and continuing projects include the South Douglas beautification project from the library down to Union Street, as well as the promenade from downtown Dunedin to the marina.
Gizzi added that the Bleakley property will open within the next few weeks to two months, and Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski noted that the city will nearly double the size of its community center, including adding a teen room.
“We’re doing a lot of good things even though we have to be more lean and mean,” Bujalski said.
Barnette and Eggers thanked the finance staff and city manager for all their hard work with the budget. Eggers added that it has been a tough few years and they feel for all the employees and their families who have lost their jobs because of the bad economy.
The commission unanimously approved the budget and was set to approve its final reading at the Sept. 27 meeting.