By: Sid Riley
Marianna Commission Will Raise City Taxes 1 Mill
The cost of living within the city limits of Marianna will cost the property owners $219,000 more next year. The Marianna City Commission decided to increase the tax rate by this amount at the Monday afternoon special workshop.
Initially, there was a strong effort to make the increase be 2 mills, but after discussion the lower amount was agreed to by the panel.
Commissioner Howard Milton was the main proponent of the 2 mill increase, citing concerns about the condition of streets in the city. Commissioner Roberts, who favored the 1 mill increase, stated that the only solution to the city street problems was a future bond revenue issue to engage in a major repaving program.
Mayor Jim Wise was the major proponent of the 1 mill option. Commissioner Clay was also in favor of 1 mill. Initially, Paul Donofro pushed for a 1.5 mill increase. In order to pass, the panel must vote unanimously for the increase at the September 10 meeting. They instructed City Manager Jim Dean to proceed with budget preparation based on the 1 mill increase in revenues.
Expenditures include an annual increase in wages for the 25 city employees who have gross annual wages under $25,000. Also, the City’s electric bill to Florida Public Utilities has risen to over $63,000 per month, or $756,000 per year. The cost of gasoline has also increased operating costs for the City. These increases in cost combined with decreasing revenues from state funding, and decreases in tax revenues from various taxes paid on other franchised services will result in a budget shortfall …even with this 1 mill increase.
The amount of the shortfall will hinge on the result of negotiations with the County Commissioners relating to the cost the City of Marianna bears for cost of providing fire station coverage to outlying subdivisions, and for the cost of operating the new sub-station required in the arrangements with Family Dollar locating here. The original contract provided for the City to share the cost of operating this station with the County on a 50-50% basis. For the past three years the city has borne 100% of the cost.
If the final result after all of the financial dust has settled is a budget shortfall, the city will be forced to use some of the approximately $5,000,000 reserve funds to cover the annual operating costs. "That is the purpose of having a reserve", stated Commissioner John Roberts, "It is situations such as this that we create the reserve account. This may be the year we have to use some of this money."
In other business, the Commission approved an arrangement with Waste Management to utilize some of the existing idle capacity at the new waste treatment plant by agreeing to process 100,000 gallons per month on a trial basis.