INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Indian Rocks Beach may have set a record for fiscal year 2006 in granting tax relief for its citizens.
The City Commission did more than just cut the millage rate at its meeting September 22. It put the rate for fiscal year 2006 less than the roll back rate.
Last year’s millage rate, supporting the current budget year that ends tomorrow, was 2.1533. The roll back rate – the millage needed to raise the same amount of ad valorem revenue as last year – was 1.79.
The commission posted a rate or 1.788 mills to fund the 2006 budget of $7,488,861.
And there were no cuts in service, Mayor Bill Ockunzzi was quick to point out. “In fact,” he said, “we’ve added some positions – a librarian that will begin in June, a code enforcement officer who will begin in March and some parks workers.”
Also included in the budget are raises amounting to 6 percent. Part of that includes a 2.5 percent cost of living increase. The raises won’t impact all at the same time because they are staggered.
Ockunzzi attributes “paying attention” to expenses and a close monitoring of the budget for the city’s ability to lower taxes in a very real way.
“We have reached the end of unnecessary and extravagant spending,” he said.
Even with the lowered millage rate, the overall reserve balance in all funds is 22.1 percent while it is 20.6 percent in the general fund. This is a very healthy reserve, much higher than the standard 10 to 15 percent.
Most of the reason for being able to post the lowest millage rate in recent history is attributed to increased property values, which have skyrocketed all over Pinellas County.
Those jurisdictions that merely maintained existing millage rates will receive huge windfalls of money due to the increased valuations.
Indian Rocks Beach total assessed value for 2006 is $923,751,220, a 23.8 percent leap over 2005, and a 126 percent increase over the past five years. That means many property owners have enjoyed a doubling plus 25 percent in their property value since 2001.
While the taxes collected by the county have steadily gone up since 2001, counting the windfalls from increased valuations, IRB’s millage rate has dropped to the low being assessed in 2006.
One of the imbalances in the barrier island communities, where the beaches are (the only reason tourists and visitors come here), is that they constitute only about 3.5 percent of county population but pay 12.1 percent or more of the taxes.
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