With property values up, Fellsmere considers hiring staff

FELLSMERE — Property values in the City of Fellsmere have increased by nearly 4 percent over last year, which means the Fellsmere City Council can lower the tax rate and still hire two staff members, the Council heard Wednesday evening.

City Manager Jason Nunemaker lead a budget workshop with the Council, presenting his case for rolling back the property tax – millage – rate and hiring a full time police officer and a part-time public works employee.

He is proposing, and the Council appears ready to approve, a lower tax rate of 5.5309 mills, which is down from the current rate of 5.6190. With the increase in property values, property owners can expect to pay about the same in city taxes as they did last year.

If the Council were to keep the current tax rate, owners could expect to pay a bit more given the increase in property values.

“I’m actually optimistic moving forward,” Nunemaker told the Council, explaining that there seems to be an increase in interest in developing in Fellsmere and businesses coming in. He added, though, that he does not know how long the uptick will last due to what is going on at the state, national, and international scenes.

Nunemaker has recommended the City pursue a grant to help fund a full-time police officer for the Fellsmere Police Department. The grant would cover 75 percent of the officer’s salary and benefits – the City would cover the remaining 25 percent. It would require the position be in place for one year.

Nunemaker said the City would expect to make the position permanent after the first year and that the officer would be tasked with building trust between the Police Department and the community.

The city manager is also recommending a part-time Public Works Department employee to assist in maintaining the newly acquired properties the City is setting aside for stormwater retention and the like.

“It’s what people see,” Nunemaker said of expanding the two departments.

Also in the proposed budget are:

A 3% Cost of Living Adjustment for all employees

A 20% increase in health-related insurance premiums

A 5% increase in liability insurance premiums

Purchase of a mower for Public Works

Purchase of a police cruiser for Fellsmere Police Department

Nunemaker told the Council that the City will continue its efforts to seek and win grants for various projects, including improvements to the Little League concession stand, the Scenic Byway, access roads, and those for historic preservation, among others.

“The problem for us is not getting the grants,” Nunemaker said. “It’s getting too much.”

He and City Finance Director Larry Napier, with other City employees manage the grants that come and have to oversee they are administered appropriately.

Nunemaker pointed out that over the last few years, the City has tried to maintain its existing levels of service, this budget allows for increasing those levels without increasing the tax burden.

“I think we’re accomplishing a lot with this budget,” Nunemaker said.

The Fellsmere City Council will hold two public hearings on the proposed tax rate and budget in September.

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