TARPON SPRINGS – A preliminary budget will go before the Tarpon Springs City Commission for initial approval with a 5.4500 millage rate for Fiscal Year 2015, the same rate as has been adopted since 2011.
If that millage rate passes through both public hearings and City Commission votes, Tarpon Springs residents will pay $5.45 per $1,000 in property value. For example, a house valued at $200,000 will owe $1,090 in property taxes. At that rate, Tarpon Springs estimates it will generate $7,110,100, about $325,000 more than last fiscal year.
Tarpon Springs has not raised its millage rate since 2010 when the Commission approved a half-mill increase from 4.9500, the largest increase the city could make under state law.
Among the more than $7 million expected to be raised next year, about $19,000 of the funds will be used to purchase more books, publications and databases for the Tarpon Springs Public Library, $25,000 will go toward the Public Art Fund and $63,000 for improvements to the Tarpon Springs Golf Club.
Next year’s budget also includes about $650,000 from the proceeds of the sale of the nursing home on South Walton Avenue. Of that money, $50,000 will go to improvements of the Heritage Museum, $15,000 will be spent on new weight room equipment at the Tarpon Springs Recreation Department and $12,000 will be used to replenish the sand at Sunset Beach, among other expenses.
Projected expenditures and projects for FY 2015 are expected to total about $3.68 million, including about $330,000 on new police vehicles (costs will continue through FY2019), $70,000 to replace the playgrounds at Craig Park and Highland Nature Park and $132,000 for improvements to the Tarpon Springs Community Center.
City Commissioner David Banther has placed a strong emphasis on maintaining, if not growing, the city’s reserves (now called the Unassigned Fund Balance or UFB).
“I think we need to do everything we can to protect this fund,” he said at the July 29 budget workshop. “Our goal has to be to bring in more revenue.”
Karen Lemmons, Tarpon Springs’ economic development manager, estimated that some of the 14 new subdivision projects (including Santos Isles, Lexington Reserve and Keystone Ridge) could begin bringing in revenue through property taxes as soon as next year.
Commercial properties like the new Dunkin Donuts and the Reload Gun Range also will bring in new revenue to the city, although not necessarily in the next fiscal year.
Under current projections, the city will have to use more than $500,000 from the Unassigned Fund Balance to balance the budget for FY 2014, compared to about $1.381 million in FY 2013. City Manager Mark LeCouris said his goal is to balance the budget without use of the Unassigned Fund Balance and maintain $7 million in the account by FY 2018. Once the budget is balanced, LeCouris said the city could begin looking at lowering the millage rate.
“It’s a balancing act in terms of making sure we have enough money to deal with the unexpected as well as do what we need to do to make this a great city,” said Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie.