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Final vote slated on city budget

Jeff Schmucker Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:11 PM

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One last chance remains to make any changes to the upcoming year's budget before a 3.6 percent tax increase is approved while also hitting up property owners with more than $100 in fees for fire protection.

During the 6:30 p.m. Wednesday public hearing at City Hall, council members are slated to take their final vote on the 2012-13 budget, which includes a tax rate of 6.6 mills and levies a fire service fee on property owners — budgeted to collect roughly $400,000.

The tax rate means a property owner with a $150,000 home and $50,000 home exemption would pay $23 more than an owner with a similarly valued home last year when the tax levy was set at 6.37.

They also would pay an additional fee that is primarily based on improvements to their property for fire protection — which they also pay for through taxes.

Although the fee collection is set at $400,000, estimates suggest that the city would actually collect 95 percent of the fees owed, or $380,000.

During the last public hearing, council members approved the budget by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Joe Bernardini voting against the budget.

All other council members agreed they were fine with the tax and fire fee rate except for Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn, who preferred to collect $600,000 in fees during its first year of implementation.

Without support from her other council members, she said she would go along — for now.

Attempts to reach Bradburn on two of her cellphones about her feelings going forward with the budget were unsuccessful on Friday.

Bernardini said he will likely be the only council member to continue voting against the proposed budget. Unlike the other council members, he said he is against imposing fire fees on property owners for the upcoming budget.

Instead, he said the city should collect the fees for the following year's budget to gauge any potential problems with the initiative.

"They want to implement this and work out the bugs later. But we shouldn't be putting the cart before the horse," Bernardini said. "Because while we're expecting to collect 95 percent of these fees, what if we collect more like 40 percent? Then what are we going to do?"

He added that he supports increasing the tax levy to 7.5 mills, which would have $150,000 homeowners paying $113 more than they would if their property was appraised the same as it was a year ago.

However, he said more than likely the budget will be approved as proposed.

To view more about the budget, go to

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