Carrabelle’s millage rate is holding steady at 8.77 mills.
Carrabelle approved on Sept. 24 raises for city employees for the 2013-14 budget but nothing else has changed substantially from last year.
Carrabelle was the only taxing district in the county to see an enlargement of its tax base, after having suffered a nearly 26 percent decline last year. Carrabelle’s combined valuation this year will expand from $101.8 million to $102.7 million, an increase of $916,000, or nearly 1 percent.
This enlarged tax base, the first time its expanded since the real estate bubble burst a few years ago, means that at the same millage, ad valorem taxes increased by about $2,300, to $904, 328.
The total estimated receipts for the upcoming fiscal year, which also include franchise fees, utility taxes, sales taxes, and various rents are $1.34 million, down from $1.36 million last year.
City employees say they hope to see revenue from several new sources in the near future.
In a telephone interview, City Clerk Keisha Messer said the city expects the new Franklin Correctional Institution (FCI) Work Camp to increase water and sewer revenue by more than $150,000 based on the amount or revenue generated for Apalachicola by the Bay City Work Camp.
She said she has not included this amount in the budget because the amount is speculative. “That will help cover the first payment on the water processing plant,” Messer said.
Last year, the note for a Department of Environmental Protection loan used to pay for Carrabelle’s new sewage treatment plant came due and the city was faced with paying off an $11 million debt. After negotiations by La Paz and city staff, the loan was restructured and Carrabelle must now make payments only on $4.5 million, the approximate amount of the capitalized interest to be repaid over 30 years in ballooning payments. The next installment is $175,000, increasing to $225,000 in 2014.
An ordinance was passed this month to offset the debt by raising the water and sewer rates. Messer said the increase would be about $2 per household monthly within the city limits. She said the city has set aside $75,000 for next year’s payment, which leaves $150,000 to be paid.
Messer said Carrabelle would renegotiate rates for reuse water with some customers when the meter-to-measure flow is repaired in December. She said FCI is the largest customer buying reuse water.
St. James Bay Golf Resort also uses large amounts of the recycled water for irrigation and, under the original agreement with the city, received the water free of charge, Messer said.
“That was when we expected they would build out, and the new houses would be a big market for city water and sewer, which has not happened,” she said.
Messer said the resort uses hundreds of thousands of gallons of water and she plans to approach them about paying for what they use. Reuse water is billed at 32 cents per 1,000 gallons
Another possible source of revenue for city government is occupational licensing.
Earlier this year, Messer revamped the existing law governing the licenses and the city commission raised fees from between 50 and 100 percent. The budget shows an increase of $1,000 in these fees for the new fiscal year, but during the final budget meeting, Messer said she discovered at least 30 businesses that have not paid for licensing at all. She said this could considerably raise the revenue expected from licensing.
Messer said she plans to contact delinquent businesses by mail, and that failure to comply with the occupational licensing ordinance could result in a $500 fine.
New police vehicles for the police department were discussed and $29,000 was allocated under capital projects to purchase one. Messer said she plans to pursue grants to purchase two additional vehicles.
The single part-time position with parks and recreation became a fulltime position, with a salary increase from $4,850 to $25,000, with an additional $20,000 spent on Social Security and Medicare contributions, insurance and other benefits. The total estimated expenditure for the department is $63,250, compared to $28,800 last year.
The expenditure for streets and roads declined from $214,082 to $206,500 this year. Messer said this is because an employee approved in the 2011-12 budget was never hired and the salary was removed from the department’s budget.
This year the city holds $148,000 in reserve for contingency, compared to $85,000 last year.