Fellsmere residents can expect less taxes, same service

FELLSMERE – Property owners in Fellsmere can expect to pay less in taxes this coming year and still receive the same services from the city, Fellsmere officials said Thursday evening.

“This is not a doom and gloom budget,” City Manager Jason Nunemaker said when presenting his proposed, balanced budget of about $8.9 million to the Fellsmere City Council.

The city has identified a little more than $8.9 million in revenue – including property taxes – and has allocated the same amount into services.

“It could’ve been much, much worse,” Nunemaker said of the city’s budget outlook, especially when compared to what other municipalities are facing.

Nunemaker expects the city to hold the line on its property tax rate – also known as millage – of 4.4300 mills. While the rate is expected to remain the same, property owners can plan on paying less due to the continuing decline of property values.

For a homeowner with a property assessed at $125,000 and a $50,000 homestead exemption, the property tax would equal about $332.25.

The city expects to collect $112,620 less in property tax revenues than it did last year. Other revenues, too, have seen a decrease.

Nunemaker said that the city could raise the millage rate to as much as 5.1033 mills to ensure the city collects the same amount of revenue in property taxes.

“No one has a desire to raise it if we can work within what we’ve got,” Mayor Susan Adams said.

The city has no plans to institute furloughs – unpaid days off – or cut staffing.

“We’re a pretty lean shop and fairly efficient,” Nunemaker said.

Depending on if the Fellsmere Police Department receives a grant to hire two additional officers, the city’s workforce would be 4.8 or 5.2 per 1,000 residents.

By comparison, Sebastian has 5.7 employees per capita; the county – including emergency personnel – has 10.1 per capita; and Vero Beach has 22 per capita.

Nunemaker said the city is in a good position financially because the city’s revenue streams are diverse.

Nunemaker has budgeted for a 15 percent increase in the city’s healthcare costs based on recent changes to healthcare.

“It’s hard to predict” what the actual increase will be, he told the council.

No city employees will receive raises again for the third year aside from those either promoted or those no longer on employment probation.

Within the Fellsmere budget, the city has made the following earmarks from its Special Revenue Fund, which consists in part of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency fund, the local option gas tax, and various grants:

$15,000 grant funding through the CRA for façade and infrastructure improvements

$1,000 max for 2010 Night Out on Crime, which will be held in October instead of on Aug. 3 with National Night Out

$7,500 for 2011 Frog Leg Festival

$15,000 for Centennial Celebration

$6,500 for Economic Development Committee

The City of Fellsmere will hold two public hearings before finalizing the millage rate and budget.

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