Belleair Bluffs seal

BELLEAIR BLUFFS – A proposal to raise the city’s tax rate from 5.35 to 5.57 mills, to make up for an anticipated revenue loss if a state constitutional amendment to raise the homestead exemption passes, has been dropped.

“We are not increasing the millage rate,” City Administrator Debra Sullivan said at the July 9 commission workshop.

That is a change from last month, when a budget was presented at the June 11 commission meeting that included revenue from the proposed millage rate hike. Sullivan said at that meeting the millage rate increase was needed to make up about $50,000 that would be lost if the new homestead exemption is approved in November, as expected. Sullivan also said income from another revenue source, a 10 percent utility tax passed in 2016, is “way down from the previous year.”

If the Homestead Exemption amendment failed to pass, the plan had been to use the additional money from the millage rate increase for the ongoing road repair and improvement project on the city’s east side, and reassess the rate the following year.

But now, the approach is to wait and see what happens with the homestead exemption amendment before making any decision on raising the millage rate.

“We have revised the budget and are presenting it with no millage increase,” Sullivan said.

The latest budget shows $30,000 in additional revenue due to an increase in property values, she said.

“We were able to juggle things around and still get some revenue in,” Sullivan said. “It’s a good idea to keep (the millage rate) the same until we see how it really affects us.”

Mayor Chris Arbutine said the commission “is taking the right stance in keeping the millage rate the same.”

Commissioner Suzy Sofer said she hopes the citizens “get educated” on the homestead exemption.

“If it passes,” she said, “all cities will be hit with higher taxes and fees” to make up for lost revenue.

Also, Sofer said the majority of people do not even qualify for the homestead exemption increase.

The commission voted unanimously to set the tentative millage rate at 5.35, as it has been for the past six years.

“We had proposed a higher tentative millage rate, but when we took a look at things we decided to keep everything the same,” Arbutine said.

He advised a wait-and-see approach.

Old fire station sold

The city has moved quickly to sell the old fire station on Indian Rocks Road. After hiring a Realtor to market the station in April, Sullivan reported last month the property was “getting a lot of attention from potential buyers and has been shown 12 times.”

The commission accepted an offer to buy the station for $750,000. That is below the asking price of $900,000, but well above the $550,000 appraised value.

“That is an acceptable amount. It’s a worthy offer that is worth going for,” said Arbutine.

The buyer has made a $50,000 down payment, and has 60 days during which he can have full access to the building to check out things such as the plumbing and electrical systems.

“If there are no issues during the due diligence period, I expect the property to close on Aug. 27,” said City Attorney Tom Trask.

The planned use is as an office building. The property is zoned residential-office-retail.

Finance committee members needed

The city’s newly established Finance Committee needs members. There has been only one applicant so far to join the committee. Residents interested in volunteering to serve on the committee should call City Hall at 727-584-2151 or check under “City Boards” on the website, www.BelleairBluffs.org.

Commission meeting date changed

The commission’s regular meeting this month will be held on Monday, July 23, rather than July 16. The extra time is needed to meet requirements of a playground grant the city is applying for.