PALMETTO -- The city of Palmetto's proposed 2014 budget will increase slightly if city commissioners approve a half mill property tax increase.
The 2013 budget was $22.2 million. The budget proposed Wednesday would be $22.4 million, a $200,000 increase.
Palmetto city officials discussed what a half mill increase would cover and how it will supplement the decrease in non-property tax revenue.
City Clerk Jim Freeman said state revenue-sharing dollars and communication service taxes decreased. The proposed millage increase would help balance the budget.
"Other revenues besides property taxes have declined," said Freeman. "At the end of the day, you're looking at what happened to that revenue stream."
"I wish our values had increased more because that would make our job much easier," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant.
The increase will allow the city to maintain services to residents and pay for rising pension costs.
Palmetto city officials say they want residents to understand the increase in property taxes will pay to improve major infrastructure problems put off for years.
Bryant said if the proposed 28 percent utility rate increase is approved it will go to expensive infrastructure projects that include water and sewer pipes, lift stations, waste water treatment plants, storm water systems, manholes and paving roads.
"I'm hoping the commissioners will go with the 28 percent increase and the half mill increase," said Bryant. "I hate increases like anybody else, but as far as the rate study goes, it's become a health and a safety issue."
She said local municipalities must meet state guidelines regarding water and sewer systems. Bryant said Palmetto cannot reach the point where its system is in jeopardy of failing.
"That would not be good for the city at all. It will be more of a waste of money in the long run," she said.
Freeman said this preliminary phase of the city budget allows many things to
be worked out.
"This is our first workshop. We are still working through a couple of areas that need to be finalized," he said. "However, the budget overall is relatively flat."
Bryant said minor cuts in the proposed budget include eliminating two dispatchers requested by the police department for peak calling times.
Commissioners hope to fund a new police department building in the future as the current one needs repair.
"I hope the community realizes that we're not raising the millage for any type of fluff, we're trying to do the best we can to make Palmetto the best it can be," Bryant said.
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.