ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Despite all three cities on Anna Maria Island proposing to keep their millage rates the same, with property values on the rise, residents will still see an increase in their tax bills.
The city of Anna Maria is proposing to keep its millage rate at 2.05, Holmes Beach at 1.75 and Bradenton Beach at 2.3329 for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. A mill is $1 per every $1,000 of assessed property value.
The proposed budget for the city of Anna Maria is $3,471,773. Last year's budget was more than $300,000 less at $3,105,148.
Mayor SueLynn spoke about the most important factors that played
into crafting the proposed budget. A first reading of the budget was approved by Anna Maria commissioners on Sept. 10.
"It's always based on the city's needs, whether directed from residents or infrastructure," she said. "There's also the issue that you have to keep up with maintenance. Every year it seems to go up a little more just because there are increases in equipment and repairs."
In the proposed budget, city repair and maintenance costs are estimated at $21,600 and equipment repair and maintenance costs are estimated at $27,000. SueLynn said there's been a particular investment in technology in this particular budget after she attended a Florida League of Cities Conference that heavily discussed "cities being able to meet the challenges that are present today."
"That was a consideration," she said. "Our whole system needed to be upgraded. It's old and it was built like topsy-turvy."
As for the city's millage, the mayor said commissioners decided in the end that it would be in the best interest of the city to maintain it at 2.05.
Bradenton Beach is proposing to keep its millage at 2.3329, increasing its budgeted expenditures to more than $3.038 million. In addition to increasing the budget more than $469,000, it also puts the city at a deficit of more than $247,000.
The balance is budgeted to be offset with monies received from cell-tower proceeds from 2014, an insurance reimbursement for a police vehicle, U.S. Department of Justice equitable-sharing funds for the budgeted police vehicle, and Chappie Park donations.
The biggest reasons for the increase in the city's expenditures has been a rise in the cost of employee benefits, Mayor William Shearon said.
"We've been behind the times," he said.
In addition to a cost-of-living raise, insurance premiums sky-rocketed, adding about $80,000 to this year's budget.
During his first few months in office, changes Shearon made include the hiring of a city treasurer and making the budget commission consist of all the city commissioners.
"That was one of the main reasons I ran for mayor," Shearon said.
Since the commission votes to approve the budget, he said he felt it was important to get them involved in the process early on.
"We are all trying to do the best we can, and expenses keep going up," Shearon said. "Because the economy is picking up our expenses are increasing, but increased revenues are behind."
The city has seen an increase in visitors, but it does not receive compensation for that, he added, making employees all the more important.
"That's our greatest asset because that's what provides our services to our citizens and visitors," Shearon said.
Holmes Beach approved a $9.777 million budget at its first budget hearing on Sept. 10. The new plan reflects an increase of more than $700,000 in revenue and expenditures. Mayor Carmel Monti said that, although city officials considered lowering the rate, they decided the savings would be so small for residents that it would be better to increase services and improve the island's atmosphere.
"I feel we are being very fiscally responsible keeping the millage where it is," Monti said. Among the additions to the budget are the addition of one police officer to the city as well as additional shift managers in order to provide more-complete coverage around the clock, he said.
For the first time in 15 years, Holmes Beach also will be receiving about $25,000 from the Manatee County School District to assist in paying the school resource officer stationed at Anna Maria Elementary.
"We have never received any money from the district, so that is going to be a good offset," Monti said.
The changes will increase the police department budget about $110,000, to total more than $2.4 million.
The Stormwater Utility Fund also saw an increase of more than $234,000 in expenditures in the proposed budget, for a total of $901,700.
With the city in a floodplain, storm-water drainage is something the city has always battled, he said.
"We have gone section by section in the city to come up with a plan," Monti said. "We have never really had a drainage plan, like we have a paving plan."
All three cities will vote to approve their 2014-2015 proposed budgets during final hearings in the respective cities at 6 p.m. Sept. 24.
Amaris Castillo, Herald law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her Twitter @JDeLeon1012.