INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — City commissioners July 23 tentatively approved the city’s tax rate for the 2019-2020 fiscal year of 1.83 mills, the same as this fiscal year’s figure.

The rate, which is the fifth-lowest in the county, is equivalent to $1.83 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

Little was said about the millage rate by the commissioners in attendance.  Commissioners Diane Flagg and Nick Palomba were absent. Flagg’s plane was postponed as she attempted to return from vacation.

Palomba was absent because of work commitments. However, he sent a statement to town officials in which he was in favor of retaining the current tax rate. City Manager Gregg Mims read the statement at the meeting.

“Today our economy is strong but there are no guarantees that we are going to remain at the current growth rates,” Palomba wrote. “While we have had a 6.9 percent increase in assessed values, it is important to remember that approximately (one-third) of Indian Rocks Beach properties are covered under the homestead exemptions and Save Our Homes legislation and those properties only had a 3% increase in assessed value from a taxable valuation.”

He reiterated support for keeping the city’s tax rate flat and remaining open to evaluation next year for any adjustment needed.

“The state of our city is strong, let’s continue to work together to keep it that way,” Palomba wrote.

Commissioners also discussed the city’s budget for the next fiscal year.

Highlights include a 3% raise for all non-charter employees of the city, a $2,000 increase in the city’s allotment to the Beach Art Center and elimination of two part-time code enforcement officers to be replaced by one full-time officer.

There was also the elimination of a full-time position in the public services administration and one position in the parks department.

“We discussed that matter with the employees who said they could manage without that position,” Mims said.

In addition, the budget calls for an additional $40,000 for drainage maintenance, more money for flags and decorations, continued funding for solar-powered lights at the beach accesses and an upgrade to the electrical service at the 12th Avenue Park.

There is also a 3% increase in the money the city pays the Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement. Mayor Cookie Kennedy said that increase is being levied to all the Pinellas County municipalities that rely on the Sheriff’s Office.

Part of the budgetary process is providing a look at the five-year capital improvement plan. In the 2020 part of that plan, there is ongoing funding for road reconstruction, $400,00 for drainage enhancement projects, $50,000 for dune walkover reconstruction and $238,000 for solar projects, which will affect all city buildings and involves LED lighting systems.

Fewer than a half-dozen residents showed up for the meeting and only one spoke. Mims said back in February a postcard was sent to every resident of Indian Rocks Beach seeking input for the budget and he only received five replies.

“Three of them were offering advice on operational matters and not budget requests,” he said.

Jean Scott, the chair of the town’s Finance Committee, said she “wholeheartedly approve the proposed budget.”

The commission’s action means that as the city moves through the budget process in the months ahead, no matter what is changed, the millage rate cannot go up, it can only go down.

The City Commission’s first public hearing to adopt the final budget and tax rate will be held Tuesday, Sept. 3, 7 p.m., and the final public hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.