ST. PETE BEACH — Aided by continuous increases in property values, city officials are recommending that the city’s tax rate remain at 3.15 mills for the next fiscal year.
In his July 8 budget message, City Manager Alex Rey said the tax roll includes a 6.57% property value increase for St. Pete Beach.
“The city is fortunate to have a strong property tax base, which allows for a modest millage rate,” Rey wrote.
The latest tax roll marks the sixth consecutive annual increase in property values over 6 percent for the city, generating $628,145 in new revenue.
The tax rate of 3.15 mills is equivalent to $3.15 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The city’s total budget is $50.4 million, an increase of about $10.9 million, or 27.8 percent, from the current fiscal year primarily due to the magnitude of planned capital improvement projects.
Revenue increased by $2.37 million, driven by property taxes, service charge increases, and intergovernmental sources.
In other budget highlights:
• All of the city’s enterprises have rate increases for the next fiscal year. Wastewater and reclaimed water rate increases are needed to meet the city’s goals over the next five-year cycle. Rey is estimating 7 percent rate increases for the next three years in the wastewater fund.
• Reclaimed water rates are proposed to go up by 20 percent to cover the increases that Pinellas County has proposed, which include a series of wholesale rate increases that will increase the city’s cost for reclaimed water by over 300 percent in the next four years, Rey wrote.
• The city’s general fund or operating budget currently yields about a $4 million surplus of revenues over expenses.
Rey proposed that the commission “use that allocation over the next five years to make an investment in infrastructure, including funding to revitalize the commercial corridors, repair and replacement of piers, seawalls, parks, facilities, roads, etc. This long-term commitment will allow us to plan and implement the necessary improvements to make the city ready for the future.”
• The city has taken a relatively passive approach to pursuing grants, Rey wrote, and the responsibility currently falls to the assistant city manager. Funds spent in the pursuit of grants could pay off many times over.
Rey said in his experience, getting a return of 5 to 6 times the level of investment is not difficult to achieve, so he is recommending that the city allocate $100,000 in next year’s budget as seed money for the grants function. As the city achieves success and receives funding, additional money can be allocated, he said.
City officials are targeting the FEMA pre-disaster mitigation program, community planning technical assistance grants, Southwest Florida Water Management District funding and an assistance to firefighters grant program.
The grant opportunities could provide funding of $1.2 million collectively.
• City officials have a limited and fairly decentralized process for providing public information, Rey said.
“Without the presence of a Public Information Officer professional, we are being reactive to the media, as opposed to proactively pursuing coverage for the good things happening in the city and keeping the residents and employees fully aware of the city’s programs and projects,” Rey wrote.
Through a contract with the city, such an individual could also help the local business districts to market and advertise events and opportunities. He is recommending that $20,000 be allocated to this effort.
• Over the next year, the city will be taking over the provision of most of the transit services from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, to which it pays about $570,000 a year.
“My objective for next year is that we transition some of those service areas to be operated by the city by using ‘micro-transit.’ This will be done by using contracted operators, yet to be selected by the City Commission, with oversight of those services provided by the city,” Rey wrote.
The City Commission’s first public hearing to adopt the millage rate and budget is set for Tuesday, Sept. 3. The final public hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 17. Both meetings are tentatively set to begin at 6 p.m.