Bradenton, Palmetto don't expect to raise tax rates with property values climbing

MANATEE -- Early property value estimates for Bradenton and Palmetto are leading staff to think there will not be a need to raise tax rates as the cities prepare their 2015-16 fiscal year budgets.

According to the Manatee County Property Appraisers Office, property values in Bradenton are expected to climb 6.5 percent for the second year in a row. City Clerk Carl Callahan said the increase will generate about an extra $1 million in ad valorem taxes. The final appraisals are due July 1, but Callahan and Palmetto City Clerk Jim Freeman said the early estimates are generally accurate within a half a percentage point.

Both cities have begun the budget process for their elected officials to begin reviewing by August. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, Bradenton finalized an $88.4 million budget, including a $37.75 million general fund. Callahan said he expects to present about a $90 million budget to the Bradenton City Council, with an estimated $38 million general fund.

Based on current information, Callahan said he does not expect staff to recommend raising the 5.897 millage rate. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of appraised value.

"The estimates are pretty accurate so I don't anticipate any drastic changes to the budget," he said. "We are getting a lot of department budget requests, but we aren't to the point where we have enough funding for all those requests even though those departments went through

some lean times during the bad economy."

The city council ultimately has the authority to raise, lower or maintain the millage rate. By state statute, if a municipality doesn't increase the millage rate, but collects more revenue from higher property taxes than the year before, it is considered a tax increase. City officials would have to lower the millage rate to the level that would generate the same revenue -- called a rollback rate -- for anyone to claim taxes were not raised.

Freeman said it's too early tell what Palmetto's staff will recommend, but he said he is confident a 4.9 percent increase in property values across the city will forego the need to ask for a higher millage than the current 5.7171 rate.

"My initial thought at this early stage is that staff will try to present a budget that doesn't include a millage increase," said Freeman. "However, we may present some options as a 'what if' scenario, but my thought is that staff will be diligent to create a budget at the current rate."

Palmetto's $24.1 million budget, including a $9.8 million general fund, isn't expected to benefit much from an increase in property values. Freeman said it will create about $186,000 in additional revenue.

Freeman said Palmetto has not had the new construction the rest of the county has had over the past year.

"But it's the third year in a row we've seen increases compared to the four previous years of decline," he said.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.