As expected, Marathon OKs initial tax rate

By William Axford, Florida Keys Keynoter, (Marathon, Fla.)
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

July 19--As expected, the Marathon City Council on Thursday adopted a preliminary fiscal year 2014-15 property tax rate 5.43 percent higher than in the current year.

The 2.3297 rate, or $2.3297 per $1,000 of assessed property value, would raise $4.16 million in tax revenue, a $220,136 increase from the current year's $3.94 million. The vote was 4-0, with Vice Mayor Chris Bull absent.

The increased rate would be used to cover staff raises, an increase in health insurance costs, a citywide beautification effort and other projects. City employees have not had raises in five years.

"We have added beautification funds and raises for personnel who have not had raises for years," said Mayor Dick Ramsay.

But Ramsay was clear he wants to address possible cuts in other areas as the budget process continues.

"What I would like to see is [city] staff accumulate a list of items that are absolutely necessary to the city," he said.

Fire and EMS service would take up the biggest portion of the general fund at $3,171,505, a $462,132 increase from this year's budget. Other areas of the general fund that would see a significant bump during the next budget cycle includes the Planning Department at $420,836 (a $178,006 increase) and Public Works at $370,009 (a $122,535 increase).

Total expenditures for 2014-15 are expected to be $10,107,439, a $981,029 increase from the current budget. Finance Director Jennifer Johnson told the council total revenue would be $9.26 million, meaning the city would face a nearly $850,000 revenue shortfall.

Budget planners said the city has a three-month reserve ($3.18 million) built up in cases of emergency, a three-month decrease from budgets of yesteryears. City council members expressed interest in building the reserve back up to at least six months, especially since the city is in a high-risk weather area.

"It's not a question of if it's going to happen but when it happens," Councilman John Bartus said of a potential hurricane in the future. "I don't want to be the council that drops the ball when that happens."

The council will review special revenue and enterprise fund budgets, which are not funded by tax payer dollars, at Tuesday's council meeting. That meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Marathon Government Center.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



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