PALMETTO -- Palmetto officials passed the city's 2015-16 $25 million fiscal year budget Monday night that included a tax increase with no public opposition.
The city's final budget public hearing lasted only minutes with commissioners unanimously approving a budget that includes a $4,000 raise for themselves, bringing their commissioner salaries to about $12,000 a year.
It was a rocky road for this year's budget process that ends with about $10 million in the city's general operating fund. Insurance concerns initially had staff considering a half mill tax increase to cover a 50-percent spike in insurance rates for what City Clerk Jim Freeman described as "a bad claim year" for city employees. The city was able to re-bid their insurance company provider, but still retained a company with an overall 21-percent increase from the prior year, prompting a quarter mill increase in the end.
With several unknown factors leading up to the budget deadline, virtually all of
the city's budget work shops were canceled leaving commissioners frustrated, but confident they did enough budget review on their own to determine that nothing in the budget could be cut to avoid a tax increase, including their salaries.
The city will collect about $171,000 in additional tax revenue from the quarter mill increase, as well as an additional $108,000 for the 4.9 percent average increase in property values. In total, the average homeowner who has been paying about $572 for property valued at $100,000 will pay on average $38 more a year.
Manatee School for the Arts Action Team
In other matters, Keep Manatee Beautiful Executive Director Ingrid McClellan honored the Manatee School for the Arts Action Team, naming the students the 2015 Outstanding Volunteers.
Teacher and Action Team student adviser Kevin Gush said his students "Are really, really, really great kids. I can't praise them enough. They are constantly looking to better the community."
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said when the students were seeking community projects, she expected they would perhaps adopt a single city park.
"They adopted all of them" she said. "Over two years, they have been helping us keep our city parks clean and now their numbers are growing so large with student involvement, they are requesting additional ways they can help."
Keep Manatee Beautiful also awarded the city's code enforcement department for improving community environment through litter prevention and illegal dumping programs.