Council members responding to a $1.2-million budget shortfall couldn't avoid adding more taxes.
NEW PORT RICHEY - City council members reached a consensus Thursday on the amount of a proposed tax rate increase during an evening work session.
Working to balance a $1.2-million shortfall in the city's upcoming 2003-2004 budget, Mayor Frank Parker and council members Ginny Miller and Scott Chittum agreed in discussions to an increase of 7 mills - up from 6.25 mills.
Council members Bob Langford and Tom Finn said they had hoped for a smaller increase or none. The final budget is scheduled to be adopted Sept. 25.
Before this week's session, a new tax rate of 7.5 mills was expected. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 in taxable value.
On Thursday, however, council members sat down to hash out how best to raise about $1-million to balance the budget after a proposed fire service fee that would have generated nearly that amount was defeated last month. A streetlight service fee that will generate $203,000 next year was approved Sept.2.
A homeowner with a house valued at $100,000 would pay $525, an increase from $468.75.
Along with agreeing to the tax increase, council members identified $215,000 in cuts.
Parker, who agreed with the cuts and tax rate, said he was not satisfied with the council's shortfall solution but "we've got to run the city."
He added, "I know we needed an increase (in taxes) to sustain services at a reasonable level of what we have now."
The proposed cuts include reducing pay raises from 5 percent to 3 percent, saving about $62,000.
Also proposed is cutting the amount of money for yard waste and disposal service.
City Manager Gerald Seeber said that, under the plan, New Port Richey would keep its trash service, but garbage would be picked up less often.
About $227,000 in City Council contingency funds also would decrease by $15,000. Funding for a public information program - originally budgeted at $100,000 - would be reduced by $10,000 in the general fund. Roughly $2,700 in computer equipment would be removed from the city manager's office.
Saved from chopping block was the city's $8,000 employee Christmas party and recognition dinner. Also spared was $26,500 for a new fire department vehicle, dispatch software and photo equipment.