INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - The long struggle by the City Commission to settle on a millage rate for fiscal year 2007 - not unlike being dragged through a keyhole - reached accord last Thursday night with an unexpected finish.
When Commissioner Jim Palamara moved for a 1.52 rate and this was seconded by Commissioner Jose Coppen and then it quickly went to a vote, the logjam was broken.
That vote was 4-1 with only Ed Piniero in opposition. Piniero, a fiend for cutting taxes, wanted a rate that would be limited to 6 percent above the rolled back rate.
With the roll back at 1.383, Piniero's figure was 1.466. The rolled back rate is the millage assessment that would produce the same amount of ad valorem revenue as last year, in view of the increased property valuations.
Indian Rocks Beach's struggle came in the context of rising tax protests from all quarters of Pinellas County. The surge of increased home values in recent years have pushed assessments way up which has resulted in increased ad valorem revenue for the county and municipalities.
And everyone knows what politicians and hired bureaucrats like to do - namely, spend. Where government work was once paid slightly lower than the private sector with the advantage of "job security," government employment now is a way to riches.
Salaries are high and the benefits far exceed most of that paid in private enterprise, with health insurance heavily backed by taxpayers' dollars and defined benefits guaranteeing fat retirement, an advantage those in the private sector do not have.
What was surprising in the Indian Rocks Beach scenario last week was that Palamara's motion coupled with Coppen's action came hard on the heels of a motion by Coppen to go for a 1.53 millage rate. That got no second and died.
Coppen's figures aimed at replenishing the city's reserves which were dipped into last year. As it turned out, his aims were pretty much met with Palamara's figure.
To the owner of a $175,000 property with a homestead exemption ($25,000) the difference in tax payment between Coppen and Palamara's figures is $1.50.
The key in IRB is that anything that is 6 percent over the rolled back rate requires a super majority; that is, four votes. That is why Commissioner R.B. Johnson's move for a 1.58 rate failed.
It got a second from Coppen but could not muster the four votes needed to pass it.
Maybe Palamara sensed that his colleagues (and himself) were tired of this tiresome tug of war and, sensing that Coppen would back him, went for the 1.52 figure. He was right.
The last act of the commission Thursday night was to authorize a 3 percent cost of living increase for city employees.
Running Indian Rocks Beach is an expensive proposition. Big money is paid its hired hands. The commission often is willing to hand out "bonus" money or "incentive" money to employees. Nothing like playing Santa Claus with someone else's (in this case the taxpayers) money.
In reality, the city is a small town. But some folks in the city want to run with the big dogs and have dreams of a library (an extravagance that makes no sense) and an expanding art center.
In addition, the city ships $60,000 a year to the YMCA, a private organization. Many question the idea of using public funds for a private group.
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