Carrabelle city commissioners have handed city property taxpayers an October surprise, adopting a millage rate that is both one mill below the current millage, and a half-mill below the rollback rate.
By unanimous consent, commissioners followed up on a decision they made at an Aug. 23 workshop to reduce the millage rate for the 2022-23 fiscal year to 7.25 mills, more than one mill below the current rate of 8.347 mills, and more than a half-mill below the proposed rollback rate of 7.76 mills.
The new millage rate is expected to bring in about $1.09 million in ad valorem taxes, about $20,000 more than the $1.07 million that flowed in during the current fiscal year.
With most of the other fines and fees expected to remain roughly constant, with some growth in state sales taxes and building permit revenue, the city forecasts it will have about $1.74 million in revenue, slightly less than the $1.84 million brought in this year.
Together with a hefty balance carried forward of about $1.86 million, the city estimates it will have about $3.5 million in revenues to work with, still more than was brought in this year.
A key reason the city was able to sharply lower its millage rate is due to a sizable growth in the tax base, whose growth had lagged behind other tax districts in the county in recent years. Carrabelle’s tax base grew from about $134.7 million to $156 million, a spurt of more than $21 million, or close to 16 percent.
Mayor Brenda La Paz said the city will continue to have a sizable amount in reserves, in the event of a significant downturn in the economy. “We can operate for a year with reserves,” she said.
A look at what was budgeted a year ago, at the outset of the current fiscal year, and the expenditures to date, show that city leaders have been conservative in their estimates, helping to build the current surplus.
The 2022-23 budget includes a $1 per hour across-the-board pay increase for all employees. The cost of this for the General Fund is $19,368, and for the Water and Sewer Enterprise Fund $18,720.
The commission also included a $20,000 expenditure to fund fireworks at next year’s Independence Day celebration. The cost of the Holiday on the Harbor fireworks is paid for out of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
The city also continued to allocate $24,500 for non-governmental organizations, as it has done in the past. These include $12,000 for the food pantry, $3,000 for the library, $2,500 each for the senior center and Eldercare, $2,000 for the Dixie Youth League, $1,500 for the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum, and $1,000 for the humane society.
With about $1,41 million in monies from the American Rescue Plan, the city allocated $330,000 for a stormwater project at Thompson Field, $100,000 for rehabbing the old water plant building on SE Ave. C, $69,000 for radios and other equipment for the police department, $80,000 for a new tractor for the street and roads department, and a $25,300 payment on the $130,000 to expand Veterans Park in the center of Carrabelle.
The ARPA monies also include $10,000 for new filtration systems for city hall and for the water and sewer department headquarters, and $80,000 for new test wells for water and sewer. La Paz said tremendous growth is being seen in Lighthouse Estates, which will bring in 200 more residents in the city and add to the demand on water and sewer.
The city’s police department will cost about $478,000 next year, city administration will run about $448,000, streets and roads about $361,500, and the fire department about $33,400.
Water and sewer, which is funded entirely by billings, has a budget of about $2.44 million, split equally between water and sewer.