BELLEAIR — The Belleair Town Commission recently approved the final budget and millage rate for fiscal year 2021-22.
During the second and final public hearing Sept. 20, the commission voted 4-0 in favor of the adopting the final millage rate of 6.5 mills and the final budget of $22,055,356 for FY 21/22, which begins Oct. 1, 2021, and ends Sept. 30, 2022. Commissioner Thomas Nessler was absent and excused from the meeting, while Commissioner Tom Shelly voted via Zoom.
According to Town Manager JP Murphy, the millage, which is the tax rate used to calculate local property taxes, remains the same as it has been for the past three years. One mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The millage rate is 3.9 percent greater than the rollback rate of 6.2560, which is the rate that would have raised the same amount of money as last year’s budget. Murphy said there is $953 million worth of total taxable valuable in town.
“That 6.5 mills on that $953 million nets the combined fund $5.9 million,” he said.
Murphy added it “was very important to note the commission has continued its dedicated infrastructure millage of 1.25. So, of that 6.5 mills, 1.25 is dedicated strictly to infrastructure. Without that we wouldn’t be able to do much of our capital programs, and that nets us just over $1.1 million dollars.” Murphy also pointed out there was a “significant increase” of 8.42 percent in property value this year, and he added the community is “finally starting to get caught up” from the 2008-09 recession, with “much of it due to new construction as well as renovations.”
With no public comment on the millage rate, Mayor Mike Wilkinson asked Murphy to move on to the budget summary, and the town manager started by noting the general fund is balanced at $7.5 million, with property taxes representing 63 percent of the fund. The general fund encompasses everything but water and solid waste.
“Every other service provided by our town, whether its police or recreation, is all funded through the general fund, which is supported 63 percent by taxes,” Murphy said. He noted the biggest expenditures are for the police and support services departments, at $2.1 million and $2.4 million, respectively. Additional expenses include the administration department ($1 million), the public works department ($833,000), fire services ($686,000) and the recreation department ($903,000).
Murphy then moved on to a breakdown of the budget, starting with the town’s two enterprise funds, water and solid waste, which “act like a business and are 100 percent balanced on the fee revenue that they bring in.” Murphy said the water fund is at $1.73 million, while the $1.1 million solid waste fund includes a “multi-year rate increase to cover the cost of continuing operations” as well as the planned purchase of a new solid waste truck while the town continues to look at options for recycling.
Regarding the CIP, or Capital Infrastructure Project fund, Murphy said it includes $564,000 from Penny for Pinellas taxes, $430,000 in utility taxes, $337,000 in stormwater fees and $2.1 million the town is set to receive from the federal government’s American Recovery Plan Act.
“I don’t believe we’ve received our first tranche just yet,” Murphy said of the ARPA funds, adding they “will have a public hearing item on some projects we’d like to ask the commission to fund.”
Murphy listed a few of the capital projects they are looking at doing this year, including beginning the engineering for the Ponce de Leon Boulevard roundabout to the Pinellas Trail, which “dovetails really nicely into the Carl (Avenue) project.” Engineering and construction for the Indian Rocks Road phase one from Mehlenbacher Road to Poinsettia Boulevard ($2.95 million), initial work on the bluffs study ($135,000) and bridge, seawall and other repairs were also included in the CIP expenses.
Afterward, the mayor commented on what the new fiscal year figures mean for the town.
“I think this year’s budget aims to improve our responsiveness, begin construction on several large capital projects and keep our residents safe and healthy, all while maintaining the millage rate the same,” Wilkinson said via email. “We have had the same millage rate for 4 years. This year was great for property values increased by 8% and great to finally start seeing the new construction hit the rolls.”