MANATEE -- The cities of Palmetto and Bradenton are one step closer to finalizing 2014-15 fiscal-year budgets this week after each held the first of two required public hearings.
The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and both cities will not raise millage rates. A mill equals $1 per every $1,000 of assessed property value.
Property values have increased this year and both cities report a positive rollback rate to reflect that increased tax revenue. According to Florida statutes, if the rollback rate reflects a positive percentage, it is still considered a tax increase.
On Monday, Palmetto set the tentative millage rate at 5.7171. With an average 4 percent increase in property value, the rollback rate is 2.29 percent, and with other revenue streams, the $24.1 million budget will increase 6.5 percent from the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
According to Palmetto City Clerk Jim Freeman, the city will enter the new fiscal year with a $9.1 million operating budget in its general fund. There was no public comment at Palmetto's first public hearing and the commission passed a second resolution to tentatively adopt the 2014-15 budget.
A second public hearing was scheduled for Sept. 22, which will be the public's final opportunity for input on the budget.
Bradenton's first public hearing Wednesday was also without public comment and the council passed similar resolutions. The city set its final public hearing for Sept. 24.
Bradenton froze its millage rate at 5.8976 after a 7 percent increase in property values this year to account for about $1 million in addi
tional property taxes or a 5.02 percent rollback rate.
Bradenton's overall budget is $88.4 million and will begin the new fiscal year with a general fund operational budget of $37.75 million.
According to Bradenton City Clerk Carl Callahan, the council established two budget priorities: additional funding for paving projects and to "fund public safety in a manner that will allow operations to be maintained at a consistently high level."
The city paving budget suffered over the last several years during and following the Great Recession, and council members acknowledged $400,000 was not enough. Callahan said surplus revenue fro property taxes helped boost the 2014-15 paving budget to $933,000, and secured a 2.5 percent to 3 percent city employee raise.
Concerning maintaining public safety standards, Callahan said: "We will need to review all other areas of the budget for potential savings and efficiencies. The city has attempted to consistently reduce the cost of government to help offset the ever-increasing cost of providing for the public's safety."
Callahan said this is the first time in several years a balanced budget was brought to the council without having to dip into city reserves. It also is the first year since the economic downturn in 2007 where property values spiked significantly, and are now averaging about where they were in 2005, he said. Callahan said from 2006 through 2007, property value increased significantly before a six-year tumble in values.
Both cities have one final opportunity to lower the millage rate, but cannot raise the rate once tentatively established.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.