BRADENTON — With about $2.5 million less in projected revenue, the city will have to tighten its belt even more next year.
That was the message City Clerk Carl Callahan gave city council members as they met Monday to take a final look at the proposed budget for 2009-10.
Callahan said city departments made cuts in their proposed expenditures to achieve a balanced operating budget of about $33.1 million.
He said the reductions were achieved without people losing their jobs, but at the same time, this will be the second consecutive year employees don’t receive pay raises.
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“The city has always had a low head count on the number of jobs,” Callahan said, “so it makes a difference if we eliminate any employees.”
Councilman Gene Gallo said many people try to compare Bradenton to Sarasota, which is similar in size and population.
“But you have to match apples with apples,” Gallo said. “Take a look at their tax base and millage rate.”
Sarasota has a higher assessed property value than Bradenton, with an anticipated property tax revenue of $25.7 million, compared to Bradenton’s $12 million.
Sarasota’s property tax rate is about $3.15 for every $1,000 in assessed value, plus up to an additional $2 per $1,000, depending on in which part of the city the property is located.
Bradenton’s property tax rate is $4.2843 for every $1,000 in assessed value, the same rate as last year.
The owner of a Bradenton home with the assessed value of $175,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay about $642 for the city portion of the property tax bill.
“Without the same tax base of Sarasota,” Gallo said, “we’re doing a pretty good job providing city services.”
Callahan also said the city of Sarasota does not have a fire department as Bradenton does, but property owners pay a tax for the county fire district.
Council members said residents will have to expect some city services may be reduced.
“The public wants the budget cut until it hurts,” Councilman Patrick Roff said. “We’re here now.”
Councilman Bemis Smith, who was chairing the meeting as vice-mayor in the absence of Mayor Wayne Poston, said the city was working hard to reduce spending.
“We are making the hard decisions,” Smith said, “(even though) people may not agree with those decisions.”
Callahan said the city has always had tightly written budgets, but several years ago, the city council made decisions to raise the tax rate to pay police officers an equitable wage.
Then the Florida Legislature came back and made local governments cut millage rates, he said, making the problem even worse in the tough economic climate.
The city clerk said what made it even more difficult was “in these bad economic times we’re seeing an increase in demand for city services.”
“The citizens have indicated they are not willing to pay more for those services,” Callahan said.