BROOKSVILLE - Brooksville City Council held its first budget hearing on Wednesday evening.
City Manager Jennene Norman-Vacha said the budget was balanced with 6.7317 millage rate, slightly higher than the 6.6 mills set for 2013.
"We have certainly worked real hard to present a budget that balances difficult decisions," Norman-Vacha said.
Since 2010, Norman-Vacha said the city has reduced general fund expenditures by more than a $1 million, and that city property values have dropped by more than $200 million since 2008.
Vice Mayor Kevin Hohn and Council member Joe Johnston III were not at the hearing. Remaining council members preliminarily passed resolutions on the proposed budget, ad valorem tax rate, fire assessment fee and adding fluoride back into the water. City council will need to vote again on all resolutions at the final budget hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 25.
During the meeting, council member Joe Bernardini said instead of city employees getting an across-the-board 3 percent pay raise, he would like to see those making less than $50,000 a year see the increase, with those making more than $50,000 receiving a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase.
Bradburn said city employees have not received a pay raise in five years, and didn't think the 3 percent raise was "unreasonable." Later in the meeting, Bradburn said city council salaries will need to be discussed in the future.
Bradburn said "it's hard to get good people to step up to the plate" when city council members make $5,000, as compared to county commissioners and school board members who make considerably more.
Both Bernardini and Council member Frankie Burnett said $10,000 should be set aside for water fluoridation, with the money going back into reserves if council votes against fluoride.
Fluoride was a reoccurring topic during citizen input, with local dentists and health department representatives reiterating their support for adding fluoride back in community water, and speaking against a recent presentation by fluoride opponent Dr. Paul Connett.
"A real scientist does not cherry-pick information to prove a point, he or she uses all available information to support or refute a theory," said local dentist Doug Roth.
"Since none of us are scientists or researchers of the caliber and expertise required to evaluate fluoridation ... just sit back and reap the benefits," Roth added.
Residents of Southern Hills Plantation also spoke about the "duplication" of city and county services in their community and a high tax rate for residents.