By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - City residents may see an average increase of $2.30 in their tax bills if the proposed tax rate survives through two public hearings and a final vote.
The first motion at a recent special City Commission meeting was to set the proposed millage rate, including debt service at 4.05 percent.
That motion failed by a 2-3 vote, with Mayor Adam Barringer and Councilman Jim Hathaway voting yes, and Judy Reiker, Jack Grasty and Lynne Plaskett voting no.
A second motion to adopt a proposed rate of 4.09 percent, which would give the city an additional $81,226, was approved by a 3 to 2 vote, with Mayor Barringer and Mr. Hathaway casting the "no" votes.
During the discussion, Mr. Hathaway praised city staff, led by City Manager Pam Brangaccio, for reducing the size of government, personnel and expenditures.
"I want to see us go to the rollback rate," Mr. Hathaway said. "Keeping the millage rate the same as last year is how we can bring more business here."
"This is the time to send a message to the residents we are trying to do everything we can to reduce costs."
Ms. Reiker said that additional funds are needed to combat drugs, and deal with new sidewalks and paving, among other things.
"As leaders, we have a hard decision here and it takes courage to see we have needs in our city," she said.
While the millage is the same as last year, the tax rate approved is 1 percent over the rollback rate, adding $81,000 in property tax revenue for the city.
The total city budget is $44.1 million for the fiscal year 2012-2013. Last year's revised budget was $57.3 million.
One of the larger expenses budgeted this year is $450,000 for stadium bleachers at the city's Sports Complex. That is just under half of the total general fund capital equipment budget of $991,595.
A city task force determined earlier this year that many improvements are needed at the Sports Complex, replacing the aging bleachers being the most critical need.
The commission scheduled public hearings on the budget at 5:05 p.m. Sept. 12 and Sept. 25 in the City Hall Council Chambers.
New Smyrna Beach resident Robert Rees, a frequent attendee at commission meetings, said that residents hear only the message that goes out first: that the tax rate is raised, even if it is lowered later.
Bob Tolley, another resident who frequently attends the commission meetings, said whether the increase is $2 or $100, it is still an increase.