By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
LAKE HELEN - The city commission tentatively adopted its 2012-13 budget at its last regular meeting, Thursday, Sept. 13.
The commission nodded at a general fund budget of about $2 million, around $200,000 more than last year. Also, the city will dip into its reserves to get about $130,000 for some capital improvement.
"It's a slight increase, most of it having to do with capital projects we'll be doing this year," Don Findell, city administrator, said. "We have got three roads to repave. All are budgeted in the high $40,000s."
Commissioner Rick Basso said the city has long been fiscally conservative, and has been downright austere since 2007. Lake Helen has slightly more than $1 million in reserves. He said now is the time to make some needed capital improvements, because labor and materials are still relatively inexpensive.
"Next year, there's a very good chance property values will be up," the commissioner said. "I think it's a good time for a community that has been conservative for years to go ahead and spend some money on capital improvements."
The city plans to repave parts of Ohio, Summit and Euclid avenues. Also, it plans to finish constructing sidewalks on Main Street.
The commission tentatively adopted the property tax rollback rate of $6.28 per $1,000 of non-exempt, assessed value. Rollback is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of ad valorem taxes as the previous year, minus new construction and annexation.
This fiscal year's property tax rate is $5.98 per $1,000. While the tentatively adopted rate is higher, the Volusia County Property Appraiser's Office reports that property values in Lake Helen continue downward. With that drop in value, a higher property-tax rate can mean the same, or a lower, tax bill on a property.
According to Mr. Findell, the non-exempt, assessed value of Lake Helen is about $69 million. Last year, it was about $72 million.
The adoption was unanimous with Commissioner Ann Robins absent. In an interview, she said she's not had a chance to review the tentatively approved 2012-13 budget, but has lingering questions about the city continuing to fund the Creative Arts Café, 493 S. Lakeview Drive. The facility, opened in 2008, was supposed to be self-funding through restaurant food sales.
The commission will have its final 2012-13 budget-adoption meeting on Monday, Sept. 24.