BROOKSVILLE – Brooksville City Council voted 3-2 on Wednesday night to pass the 2013-14 budget.
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said with the millage rate set at 6.7317 percent – up slightly from 6.6 percent last year – generated $46,444 extra revenue citywide.
Norman-Vacha said the general fund relies heavily on property taxes, which are determined by property value and the millage rate. Since 2009, Brooksville’s property values have dropped by about 53 percent, or $200 million, according to Norman-Vacha.
“That’s why when you look at your roll back rate, it looks like a roll-up rate, because your property values dropped again this year.”
The millage rate is $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value. With the millage rate at 6.7317 percent, a homeowner with a house worth $100,000 would be responsible for $673.17 in property taxes.
During a presentation at the meeting, Norman-Vacha presented examples of real properties in Brooksville. A 9,000-square-foot home worth $333,346 in Southern Hills Plantation would pay about $258 more in taxes this year, Norman-Vacha said, and a more modest home on Rogers Avenue would pay just $33 more than last year.
When it came time to vote on the final budget, council member Joe Bernardini and Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn voted against it. Bernardini cited the fire assessment rate, and said he thought it was “unfair” owners with undeveloped property had to pay a flat rate for services.
The city plans to re-examine the fire assessment fee in the new year.
Council voted for a 3 percent cost of living increase for city employees, but not council salaries. During a discussion leading up to the vote, Mayor Lara Bradburn said upper management city employees were making significantly less money than their counterparts in other Florida cities and said she thought the city would be “turning their back on them” if they didn’t pass the cost of living increase.
Bradburn said the city would be seeing a “mass exodus” of valuable employees.
Council also moved to take $20,000 set aside for the Florida Blueberry Festival back into the general fund. Council member Joe Johnston said the festival can come back and ask for the money, so council members can know exactly how the money is being spent.
A final vote was not taken on water fluoridation, an issue that has been reappearing over the past few months. Hohn asked to see a chemical analysis of the fluoride additive Brooksville previously added to the community water. Hohn said he had “no issues” with fluoride, but was concerned about the other “mean, nasty additives.” Bradburn said she would like to see toxicology reports and evidence studies on fluoride before the council votes.