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City Council to continue discussion on not-to-exceed millage rate

By Staff | Aug 1, 2017

A City Council vote to set the not-to-exceed millage rate was continued until Wednesday’s special council meeting scheduled to finalize the city’s assessments for the North 2 Utilities Extension Project scheduled to begin later this month.

Monday’s resolution discussion to set the not-to-exceed mil rate includes scheduling the two public hearings where the budget discussions come to a vote on the final rates. Mayor Marni Sawicki announced that she would not be able to attend the second hearing scheduled for Sept. 21 and asked for an alternate date for all eight members to attend.

Staff had to do some research to determine if an alternate date exists that does not conflict with public hearing dates for the school board and county commission. Staff said it needed until Wednesday to offer a solution.

City Manager John Szerlag recommended setting the not-to-exceed millage rate at last year’s rate of 6.75 mils. Most on council agreed, but Councilmembers Richard Leon, Rana Erbrick and Marilyn Stout indicated they favored setting it at Szerlag’s proposed mil reduction rate of 6.50.

“Let’s be optimistic,” said Leon. “Let’s just put the (6.50) number out there right now. That way we know going forward. I don’t see why not.”

Erbrick added, “The city manager’s budget is based on the proposed 6.50, so I can’t support the motion for 6.75. I don’t see any reason to set it higher.”

Councilmember Jim Burch said setting the rate at anything lower than last year’s rate would “be irresponsible” for council to do.

“It makes good sense to set the rate where it is. We have plenty of workshop meetings to hammer out the final rate,” Burch said.

Sawicki called Leon and Erbrick’s stance to lower the number politically motivated because it’s an election year and both are candidates.

“I’m tired of hearing it’s an election year,” Leon shot back. “Who cares? It doesn’t matter. It’s my responsibility, my principle. I’m sorry we have different beliefs on this.”

Stout chimed in, “I agree with setting the not-to-exceed rate at 6.50 because the budget is based on that figure, but I don’t think it is important enough at this point not to support the 6.75 rate.”

During the meeting, Szerlag said he is recommending two changes to the proposed budget. One is a reduction in the Fire Service Assessment and the other is a modification to the Community Redevelopment Agency and the city water and sewer fund budgets.

The latter is to reflect an increase in the Southeast 47th Terrace Streetscape project due to information that replacement costs for structures in the county has increased by an average of more than 30 percent.

He wants to decrease the FSA recovery rate to 59 percent instead of 64 percent. The decrease will provide taxpayers a savings of another $2 million to offset the construction increase.

“That and the proposed .25 mil reduction means a savings for taxpayers of $5.1 million, which is equal to using the rollback rate (6.344),” said Szerlag. “I don’t want the rate payers to have that kind of a burden.”

A vote on the not-to-exceed millage rate is expected to be the first thing on the agenda at Wednesday’s special meeting. The rest of the meeting will deal with the construction costs, related contracts and assessments for the North 2 UEP.

North 2 is the first phase for city water, sewer and irrigation installation north of Pine Island Road where nearly 9,000 parcels are affected in an area roughly between Old Burnt Store Road and Del Prado Boulevard.

Wednesday’s meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers. The next regular council meeting is Monday, Aug. 7.