Sebastian leaders to discuss county’s request for $128,000

SEBASTIAN – Sebastian city leaders will discuss the county’s request for more than $128,000 at their Wednesday council meeting.

The city receives approximately $2.8 million in what it calls discretionary sales tax – the county calls it one-cent optional sales tax.

The city uses its portion of funds to finance the City Hall bond, buy new police cars, and make other capital improvement purchases, City Manager Al Minner said in city records. County Budget Director Jason Brown is asking all but Indian River Shores for a “share” of their sales tax revenue to fund their portion of emergency services. Indian River Shores is not being tapped because it has its own emergency services department.

“We’re exploring this,” Brown said, adding that the county is not trying to be adversarial about the matter.

The Board of County Commissioners in August last year directed staff to pursue asking the cities for funds after realizing that the county was paying for the construction of new fire stations and buying new equipment and vehicles from its own optional one-cent sales tax.

Commissioners at the time felt it was not fair that the sales tax collected in the unincorporated parts of the county were paying for all the new stations and equipment.

Minner wrote in the city’s record that he does not expect any of the municipalities to accept the county’s request.

Brown said if that is the case, if the municipalities decide not to share their sales tax with the county, then the county would change the way it funds the capital projects within the Emergency Services District.

Instead of the county budgeting the work and purchases through its optional one-cent sales tax, it would use the district’s general fund. The general fund is funded through the county’s Emergency Services District millage rate, assessed on property taxes countywide.

Brown said the county would have no immediate plans to increase the district’s millage rate to offset the capital funding should the municipalities decline to participate in the sales tax sharing.

Fellsmere City Council took up the issue last week at its regular meeting and decided not to support the request.

“I think this request is insulting,” Fellsmere City Manager Jason Nunemaker told the council, adding, “Frankly, I was a little flabbergasted.”

Fellsmere Mayor Susan Adams said she is tired of the county coming to the city looking for money to fill their budgetary holes.

“We have budget issues, too,” she said.

Brown, who was not at the city council meeting, said that the county was not trying to plug any holes in its budget.

“That’s definitely not what’s going on here,” Brown said.

This fiscal year, 2009-10, the county has $1.5 million budgeted for capital improvements within the Emergency Services District budget. Of that, the municipalities are being asked to pay as follows based on their tax roll and percentage of the district:

Vero Beach – $280,472

Sebastian – $128,627

Orchid – $57,300

Fellsmere – $15,285

The unincorporated portion of the county would pay $1.02 million.

Vero Beach City Council and Orchid Town Council could discuss the request at their next council meetings.

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