NEW PORT RICHEY — With a $5.5 million surplus and the first increase in property values since 2008, city officials began delving into the city budget for the next fiscal year.
The city plans no reduction in services for fiscal 2015, no new taxes on residents and no millage increase, according to the budget message submitted by City Manager Debbie Manns and Finance and Human Relations Director Peter Altman.
The first draft of the budget was delivered to city council members shortly before a Tuesday workshop, Mayor Rob Marlowe said. It will take a bit of time to digest the details in the 144-page document, he remarked. He refrained from making comments and observations at this time.
In other budget highlights, Manns and Altman wrote that a top goal is boosting police and code enforcement to combat crime and neglect.
The budget proposal includes hiring 13 more full-time staff members. The police department would gain an assistant chief, corporal, an administrative clerk and two patrol officers. Three more firefighters would come on board.
In addition, two part-time positions would change to full-time status.
The city plans numerous construction projects in the next fiscal year. They include expansion of the fitness center at the Recreation and Aquatic Center, design and possible construction of a new city fire station, and expansion of Grey Preserve, along with additional access.
Also on tap for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1, are water system improvements, water main replacements, sewer upgrades, flood control projects, water quality, installation of the rest of modern water meters and modernization of the computer database.
The real property values within the city rose modestly for the first time since the peak in 2008.
The city will base its revenue on taxable value that went up about $8.2 million from the current fiscal year. Much of the increase in new properties, though, was offset by a drop of nearly 15 percent in the value of business assets excluding real estate.
The current value of taxable tangible property also dropped substantially, affecting the general fund.
A troublesome trend is the sustained drop in revenues from the city’s red-light camera program, officials mentioned. The city is now at a break-even point.
On a positive note, officials noted about $5.5 million from the current budget will carry over into the new budget.
The city also boosted its fortunes by paying off two Community Redevelopment Agency notes, using funds from the utility department. That reduced interest expense. Loans from Penny for Pasco to the CRA became unnecessary, freeing up money toward buying police and fire department vehicles.
While the proposed budget does not contain any refinancing, the city might find additional cost savings in the months ahead.
At the July 15 meeting, city council members are expected to discuss setting the proposed general fund property tax rate for fiscal 2015. They also are scheduled to set the date for the first of two public hearings on the budget.