This week’s St. Augustine Report from the Department of Public Affairs of the City of St. Augustine says it begins with cutting back – trimming our budgets to a weak economy.
For the city, it’s meant staff reductions, early retirement incentives, salary freezes, deferred maintenance – all while trying to maintain the level of service expected.
The trimming began two years ago, with budget cuts of $1.6 million. Another $2.5 million was cut this year, and $1.7 million would be cut in next year’s proposed budget.
Still short $1.4 million in what city officials consider a “bare bones” budget, city commissioners approved three revenue sources: a two-cent per square foot increase in fire assessment fees, expected to raise $325,000; a flat eight percent tax on electric bills ($160,584), and a millage increase ($892,413).
The city’s also been able to increase federal and state grants by $583,172.
Despite the millage increase, the city will actually receive less revenue from property taxes due to reduced property assessments.
Commissioners endorsed the fire assessment fee and electric utility tax increases as a way to spread the financial burden to that 36 percent of properties that are off the tax rolls – these increases apply to all properties in the city and all electric users. This shift of burden would otherwise translate into another one-third mil increase in property taxes.
The total city budget has been shrunk from $51 million two years ago to $48 million proposed for next year. The General Fund – the city’s operating budget, has been reduced $1.4 million, from $22 million to $20.6 million. Like our own family budgets, this in the face of higher fuel, insurance, materials, and other costs.
The final public hearing on the proposed 2009-10 budget will be September 17 at 5:05 p.m. in the Alcazar Room at City Hall. Budget details are on the city website.