Crystal River struggles to make ends meet

City officials sharpen their budget knives to carve away about $900,000. They get close and will try again.

Published July 1, 2006

CRYSTAL RIVER - City Council members hacked Thursday at municipal costs, trying to prevent an increase in the city's tax rate.

The current millage rate is 5.6 mills. A mill is $1 in tax per every $1,000 in taxable property value. So, for a $100,000 house with a $25,000 homestead exemption, a Crystal River property owner would pay $420.

Largely because of rapid growth, the city has a budget shortfall of nearly $900,000, said Mark Thiele, the finance director. Council members brainstormed ways to close the gap.

The council could tap into reserves that had been set aside in case the city resumed responsibility for garbage collection.

That would add about $300,000 to the budget, the council determined.

Council members also directed staffers to research cheaper health insurance plans for city employees, trim travel costs, and remove one job position from the Public Works Department.

In a followup meeting Friday, city staffers further cut the budget but were still "struggling with the last $100,000," Thiele said.

The staff will bring recommended reductions back to the council for a July 10 workshop.

"Some of the cuts," Thiele said, "will be a little uncomfortable."