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Carrabelle to keep 9.0 millage rate unchanged

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

Carrabelle plans to keep its millage rate at 9 mills, and grant city employees an across-the-board 40 cents an hour raise.

At a budget workshop Tuesday afternoon, City Administrator Courtney Dempsey and City Clerk Keisha Messer went over details of a slightly revised budget based on changes suggested at an earlier workshop a week ago.

At that time, Charlie Painter, head of the water and sewer department, had proposed a pay increase for his department’s staff. Commissioner Tony Millender pushed to have the pay hike extended to all city departments.

Dempsey said salaries for water department employees were raised $5,000, up to a budget of $275,000 to accommodate the raise, while sewer salaries were upped by a total of $2,000. In addition maintenance costs were raised by $5,000 to $75,000, but the $82,500 budget for capital projects was reduced, as part of a cost-sharing arrangement with the sewer department. The sewer department plans to spend $145,000 on capital projects.

All told, the city will be able to reserve about $80,000 for contingencies, the difference of revenues over expenditures, as it spends about $957,000 on water, and $1.07 million on sewer, for a total of $2.1 million.

No change in water and sewer rates are planned.

Mayor Brenda La Paz said the utility budget includes the city being able to make an additional payment on a loan it has with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s state revolving loan fund, half of which has been forgiven by the state.

Brenda La Paz

That loan agreement calls for $14,200 in annual payments over the next 10 years, to fund utility extensions to 163 properties at Lighthouse Estates.

Messer outlined a $1.45 million budget for the general fund, with the major downturn expected to be state revenue sharing monies, estimated to decline by more than a third, to $40,000.

La Paz said with uncertainty in the economic picture for the next fiscal year, it made sense not to adopt the rollback rate of 8.4 mills.

“It’s hard to project much higher income revenues from ad valorem taxes,” she said. “If taxes are not being paid the revenues just are not there.

“I would like to see the millage rate come down but we’re doing the best we can at this point,” La Paz said.

Messer said the $500 earmarked to support the annual C-Quarters fishing tournament has been moved to the CRA budget. The CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) budget also will receive a $120,000 annual payment it is owed from general revenues.

La Paz received support for cutting out $12,000 that was intended to go towards outsourcing human resource functions, for adding $1,000 to administrative salaries and $500 for their FICA costs, and adding $500 towards funding the required administrative retirement.

In addition the cemetery reserves will get an additional $11,080 to go towards maintenance and improvement needs.

Broken down, the general fund budget will expend $41,800 for commission-related costs; $428,350 for administration; $455,350 for the police department; $29,200 for the fire department; and $300,200 for streets and roads.

La Paz noted that the 40 cents an hour raise eliminates the problem of having people who complete their probationary first year being paid more than some of those with seniority.

“It had put them over someone who had been there one to one-and-one half years longer,” she said. “And about 25 cents less than someone who had been there 10 years.”

Last year the city commission set entry level pay at $11.50. “We upset the balance of nature there so we have to make some adjustments,” she told her colleagues.

La Paz said a recent report from the audit showed the city had $383,203 in contingency monies, and two CDs, of $255,000 and $55,000, that means the city has about $700,000 in reserves.

“He told us we could operate six months if need be,” she said.

According to Property Appraiser Rhonda Skipper’s office, Carrabelle saw a 7.8 percent jump in its tax base, a $8.8 million hike to $122 million from $113.2 million. This growth rate was nearly three times what was seen the year before, when the tax base grew by just 2.8 percent.