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Tax rate cap set

By Staff | Aug 3, 2017

Continuation of a discussion to set the city’s not-to-exceed millage rate the same as last year’s final rate was minimal at Wednesday’s special City Council meeting in City Hall.

The proposed “safe” rate at which the city can not go over in finalizing its budget details for Fiscal Year 2018 was recommended by City Manager John Szerlag at 6.75 mils. In original discussions during Monday’s regular council meeting some on council wanted to set the not-to-exceed rate at 6.50 mils, the rate on which Szerlag based his budget calculations in drawing up his proposed budget.

Mayor Marni Sawicki had suggested a change in the final public hearing date in the budget approval process because she has a scheduling conflict and is unable attend on the original Sept. 21 hearing date. That was the reason Monday night for delaying the vote until Wednesday. Staff suggested Sept. 25 as the alternate final public hearing date. With all eight council members in agreement, the two mandatory budget public hearings are now set for Sept. 7 & 25.

Council members Rana Erbrick and Richard Leon favored the lower not-to-exceed rate and cast the dissenting votes when council approved the resolution at the higher rate and public hearing dates, 6-2.

Monday night, Sawicki called Erbrick and Leon’s “posturing” for the lower millage rate a political ploy because it’s an election year and both are candidates – Leon for re-election in District 4 and Erbrick for Mayor.

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

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

During Monday’s meeting, Szerlag informed Council he is recommending two changes to his proposed budget. One reduces the Fire Service Assessment (FSA) recovery rate from 64 percent to 59 percent for 2018, which will save taxpayers about $2 million. The proposed reduction in the millage rate to 6.50 saves another $3 million.

“That means a savings for taxpayers of $5.1 million, which is equal to using the rollback rate (6.344 mils),” Szerlag said.

Learning that construction and replacement costs in Lee County has increased an average of more than 30 percent led to Szerlag’s decision to reduce the FSA recovery rate in order to offset that increase on the pending SE 47th Terrace Streetscape project.

The rest of Wednesday’s special meeting was devoted to the assessments, construction costs and related contracts for the North 2 Utilities Extension Project that is set to begin later this month and be completed in 2019.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, Aug. 7, in Council Chambers at City Hall.