BELLEAIR BEACH -- The Belleair Beach City Council Wednesday evening passed a budget in excess of $2 million and set a millage rate of 2.41 in less than time than it takes to read this paragraph.
No resident was present. The only taxpayers in the room were members of the council and the mayor.
The millage rate is lower than what taxpayers were assessed in 2004's budget and reflected a continuing trend that has seen the millage rate come down from a high of 2.6651 in 2000.
Last year, Belleair Beach taxpayers paid 2.4610, and for three years previous to that the rate was 2.4690. The rate for 2005 is the lowest since the 2.35 figure in 1999.
However, the general fund opearting budget -- $2,120,492 -- is 13.6 percent higher than in 2004, when $1,867,295 was allocated.
The difference is accounted for in the increased total valuation of property in the city which is $354.3 million in the current year.
Belleair Beach has shown a steady increase in this regard, reflecting the higher real estate prices of the past 10 years. In 1997, the total valuation of property was at $180.6 million.
The millage rate in 1997 was 2.0279, so ad valorem income to the city has been spent as fast as it came in. While assessed values have almost doubled, the millage rate has increased over that eight year track by 18.8 percent. In other words, the city is spending more money than ever.
The lion's share of the budget goes to police expenditures, $559,943, up $39,994 -- 7.7 percent -- from last year's $519,949 figure.
Watchdogs of Belleair Beach expenditures keep wondering why council members do not exercise their fiduciary duty of saving taxpayers' funds by contracting with the Sheriff's Office. Such a move would save an estimated $250,000 a year.
The next biggest chunk of money goes to the city administration which is down to spend $560,682 in 2005, including the expense of a new city manager who will take up the post in March. The increase here is 29.4 percent over 2004.
Part of the additional cost of the city manager, who could make personnel changes in the city hall (it is doubtful that the job of the highly paid assistant to the mayor will be continued), offset by the elimination of most of the public works department.
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