By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - Even while the amount the city had to spend increased, the Port St. Lucie City Council still unanimously approved a tax decrease at a recent city council meeting.
Even though the tax value of homes in Port St. Lucie showed a decrease from last year by approximately $1.4 million, and the cost of running the city increased slightly, the city will have other revenue coming in to allow city officials to lower the tax rate for residents.
The budget - this year, at approximately $478 million, an increase of more than $52 million from last year's - is based on reducing last year's property tax rate of 5.728 to 5.628 per $1,000 of value. This means a homeowner living in a home valued at $100,000 would pay $56.29
"We've started to be stable in our spending," said David Pollard, director of the office of management and budget.
A lower tax rate, combined with the lower tax value on residents' homes means residents should pay less tax than last year.
The taxable value for all residential and business properties in the city totals $6.3 billion, less than half of the 2007 value for the same properties. Some of the revenue was recovered by increases in the sales tax, electric utility tax and communication services tax.
The budget actually increased almost $52 million from last year, but the majority of that is $35 million in grants for the Crosstown Parkway that are coming this year. The tax rate for Crosstown Parkway will stay the same as last year's 1.22 percent.
In addition, the reorganization of many departments and programs in the city led to smaller budgets this year.
The budget reflects not only a 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment to boost salaries, but also a one-time bonus of $1,554. After taxes, the bonus should be approximately $1,000
Another change is the percentage of money held in a general fund as a financial contingency, which was at 4 percent last year. This money is placed to one side in case of a crisis such as a hurricane. At 4 percent, the city only had two weeks of money with which to run the city. The 2012-13 budget will have 17 percent or an estimated two months of money set aside for emergencies.
The final budget should be approved by Oct. 1.