BELLEAIR BLUFFS -- Belleair Bluff's City Commission Monday night approved a "hold the line" millage rate of 4.35 ($4.35 on every $1,000 of assessed value) and okayed a city budget of $2,122,570 for 2005.
Increased valuation of properties amounted to about 13 percent in the city, so there was an increase in revenue through that method.
The city's rolled back rate -- the millage rate that would be necessary to raise the same amount of ad valorem taxes that flowed in last year -- was 3.8395. So though taxpayers do not see an increase in millage, they will wind up paying more taxes.
With the millage rate and budget final votes out of the way, the commission proceeded with a regular meeting.
One citizen, cited for having political signs that violated the city code, protested and cited case law, mostly centering on the First Amendment issue of free speech.
John Hubbard, the city attorney, immediately concurred with the citizen. As a result, Belleair Bluffs will not be enforcing its ordinance on political signs.
In other action, an accord was struck with Waste Management, which picks up trash under a contract, relative to the pick up of debris from the remnants of Hurricane Frances that went through the area as a wind storm.
Although there was little damage, Commissioner Dave Shimkus insisted that Waste Management pick up the brush and limbs knocked down by the storm.
The city paid an extra $12,000 and the job got done.
At the same time, Nancy Loehr, from Progress Energy, said the limbs and debris taken down by the monopoly company were not its responsibility to pick up. Routine cutting during the year is taken care of by Progess Energy, she said, but not the deadfall as the result of a storm.
The commission approved the contract for policing with the Sheriff's Office. Wallace Witham, a resident, suggested starting a dedicated fund with an eye to Belleair Bluffs having its own police force.
Such a fund existed before but that was used for the city hall when great satisfaction was found with the Sheriff's Office.
Mayor Chris Arbutine also pointed out that there were other alternatives, such as contracting with Largo or Belleair, neither one being very likely.
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