REDINGTON BEACH – Urged to create a financial legacy for the town, town commissioners voted Sept. 5 to keep the current property tax rate for the upcoming fiscal year.
The action will help fund a general fund budget of $1.3 million, capital fund budget of $1.8 million and a storm water fund of $98,500 and includes a 5 percent raise for town workers.
Approval was on a 5-0 vote. Mayor Nick Simons was the lone supporter of the rollback rate of 1.71 mills, but ultimately sided with commissioners to retain the 1.81 rate.
Maintaining the current millage rate is projected to raise $835,155 in property taxes; the rollback rate $790,657.
In arguing for the rollback rate at a public hearing on the budget Sept. 4, Simons said that property values have gone up “and I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue to be the case.” He added that there were no plans for any projects that might require additional revenue.
Commissioner Tom Dorgan, who oversees the town’s finances, said during the regular meeting on Sept. 5 that he supported leaving the ad valorem rate at its current level. He noted that the higher level would leave a budget surplus of about $48,000, compared to about $6,000 with the rollback rate.
It is customary for any surplus to be put into the roads and streets budget as a way of building up funds to maintain the streets, he said. Currently, the reserves are about $1.2 million, but anticipated roadwork could drop that total to about $800,000.
Dorgan added that dropping millage to the rollback rate would create an even lower threshold in the 2019-2020 budget. He added that should a statewide proposal for a third homestead exemption be approved in the November election, the town would lose approximately another $25,000 in revenue.
He noted that for a house with a $400,000 valuation, the difference in revenue between the current tax level and the rollback rate would be about $20.
Simons continued to press for the rollback rate. He said that if the new tax rate remained at 2017-2018 levels, it would be advertised as a tax increase, whereas the roll-back rate would not. If the current rate were retained into the next fiscal year, because taxable values have risen, revenue will be up.
Just prior to the vote, James Hoffman, chairman of the finance advisory committee, urged the panel to keep property taxes at current levels.
“I don’t see it capable of making a big impact in the lives of individual homeowners,” he said of the higher rate.
“I don’t think it’s possible to foresee the future, but I think it’s possible to have a legacy for future commissions. The roads aren’t that great. The seawall’s not perfect. The power lines are not undergrounded. We don’t have curbs. We don’t know what the future holds. So, a legacy of strong reserves for this little town might be just exactly what future commissions need to rely upon,” he said.
The final public hearing on the budget will be held Sept. 18 at 6 p.m.
In other action, the commission unanimously approved retaining a land use attorney to review a 2008 ordinance banning short-stay rentals.
Town Attorney Jay Daigneault had provided commissioners with a list of attorneys who specialized in that area of the law. He asked the panel to rank the top two attorneys for him to contact.
Commissioners ranked David A. Theriaque of law firm Theriaque and Spain of Tallahassee first and Thomas A. Cloud, of the law firm Gray/Robinson of Orlando, second.
Commissioner Fred Steiermann, who requested the action, said he wanted the chosen attorney “to see if there is any fresh ideas coming from different communities” and “to get an overview of our situation and make any recommendations.”
Also, commissioners authorized Simons to sign a memorandum of understanding creating the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition.
The coalition, which will deal with issues of climate change and sea level rise, will be comprised of the counties of Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota and municipalities within that region. The MOU does not commit any Redington Beach resources or staff. Each member of the coalition retains their individual power and authority.