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First special budget meeting Thursday 

By Staff | Sep 4, 2013

Now that the City Council has decided on how to impose its fire service assessment, it can now go about the business of approving the budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

Council will hold the first of two special meetings Thursday at 5:05 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.

The second special meeting will be held Sept. 19, after which the council will decide whether to approve the budget or not.

The first ordinance will establish the tentative not-to-exceed ad valorem tax rate at 7.957 mills (or $7.957 per $1,000 of assessed value), since that was the rate given before council voted two weeks ago to change it.

Once this happens, Councilmember Kevin McGrail, who is sponsoring the ordinance, said he will make a motion to amend the proposed millage rate to 7.7070, to reflect the .25 reduction in the millage rate agreed upon at the Aug. 26 City Council meeting.

“When we did the not-to-exceed, that’s the number voted on, and this is our first opportunity to change it,” McGrail said.

The millage rate will be tentative, as the proposed rate must be recomputed and the percent, if any, by which the recomputed proposed rate exceeds the rollback rate, must be announced publicly, according to a memo sent by City Attorney Dolores Menendez to council.

That’s when the ordinance containing the proposed 2014 budget gets read into the record and the public is allowed to provide its input (as it will on the first ordinance).

The tentative millage rate and budget must be adopted before it goes to a second public hearing Sept. 19, when the City Council will again vote to ratify the official budget.

Adding some speculation is the vote last week to pass a .25 millage rate reduction with a 38 percent reimbursement of the fire service assessment (FSA), a deal which almost died before Councilmember Derrick Donnell, who was originally against that option, changed his mind at the last minute to secure a 5-3 vote.

McGrail said had “Option B” not passed, it certainly would have meant “Option C” by default, which would not have collected FSA in FY 2014.

“The paving plan would have been deferred. If that had gone away and we were close to a deadlock, it would have delayed the capital improvement plan,” McGrail said. “Now we would have gotten into a discussion on where the capital budget money would be distributed.”

But the vote secured a semblance of a three-legged stool City Manager John Szerlag is seeking in regards to financial diversification, even though the city’s bond council, Bryant Miller Olive, said it couldn’t back a one mill credit as part of the 64 percent fire assessment, which goes along with the already adopted 7 percent public service tax.

The three-legged stool, along with best practices, will get the city toward its goal of raising taxes $150 per household, and that’s something Councilmember Lenny Nesta said is necessary to keep the city a place worth living in.

“I expect a positive meeting with a reduction in the millage rate and continue with the three-legged stool,” Nesta said. “That’s what it was all about. We won’t have those highs and lows. It’s a win-win for everybody and the roads will start getting paved.”