Council members briefed on next year's budget, no hike on tax rates in the forecast - South Lake Press: News

Council members briefed on next year's budget, no hike on tax rates in the forecast

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Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014 6:00 am

Clermont city officials believe they will be able to balance a larger municipal budget for 2015 without having to raise taxes, they told the city council this week.

At a workshop Tuesday night, Clermont Finance Director Joe Van Zile and City Manager Darren Gray shared highlights of the city’s fiscal year 2015 draft budget with council members.

Perhaps the best news concerning the budget is that a tax rate hike is not forecasted, in spite of an increase in expenditures, mainly as a result of the city’s recent $6.3 million purchase of its new Arts and Recreation Center. That means the current 3.729 millage rate will more than likely stay the same.

“We considered raising the millage rate to cover the Arts and Recreation building, but it was our feeling we should wait until another year to implement that after we evaluate the revenue it brings,” Van Zile said.

The city council welcomed the news after facing budget deficits the past three years: $134,007 in 2011, $267,222 in 2012 and $1,105,328 in 2013. The projected deficit for 2014 is $1,679,194.

And with revenues for 2015 projected at $19,916,371 against expenditures of $21,599,591, the projected deficit for 2015 is $1,683,220.

Still, Clermont’s reserves after the 2015 projection would remain at $6,289,863.

“Regardless, the city manager and staff have reduced spending and our reserves are over $6 million. I know of no other city our size that has a balance sheet as good as ours,” Councilman Ray Goodgame said in an email after the meeting.

Perhaps the biggest effect to the budget was the purchase of the Arts and Recreation Center.

Revenues from the rental of rooms and the use of the community pools and gymnasium, however, were not yet known. Gray said officials project about $260,000 in user fees.

Smaller expenditures included $98,000 in events department special events and sponsorship, historic village building repairs at $62,000 and $3,000 for iPads for the use of city council members raised no questions. Other spending included $400,000 for a splash park at Waterfront Park, $509,200 for improvements to the Arts and Recreation Center, $1,057,400 for the build-out of Lake Hiawatha Preserve, $170,000 for the fire department’s new rescue boats and $316,733 in merit increases for city staff and $391,005 for new positions.

A couple of other items, however, raised a few eyebrows, including a utility rate study projected at a cost of $108,000 and $1.4 million for new recycling trucks and carts.

Also noted in the budget is a projection of the expenditure versus the revenue of the red light cameras Clermont recently implemented at three intersections in town.

The projected revenues from the camer as were $335,000, and projected expenditures were $443,829.

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