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Census numbers shear city income

While San Antonio disputes its loss of residents, commissioners talk of raising taxes.


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 5, 2001

While San Antonio disputes its loss of residents, commissioners talk of raising taxes.

SAN ANTONIO -- The impact of a disputed count by the 2000 U.S. Census became clear to San Antonio city commissioners on Tuesday. Mayor Roy Pierce told them the reported population dip will decrease the city's biggest source of income.

Pierce said the results of the census, which reported San Antonio lost 121 residents, from 776 in 1990 to 655 last year, threaten to drain as much as $40,000 in shared state revenues from the city's annual budget.

That money will have to come from somewhere, Pierce said.

Commissioners agreed to notify Pasco County its maximum tax rate for the coming fiscal year could be set at $3 per $1,000 of taxable value, up about 30 percent from the rollback rate of $2.30 per $1,000.

The rollback rate is the tax rate that would generate the same amount of tax money for the city as the previous year, taking into account increases in the city's tax base.

The property tax rate for San Antonio was $2.53 per $1,000 of taxable value last year.

Pierce said the reported cut in population will reduce San Antonio's slice of the state's revenue-sharing pie.

Even taking into account an increase of $1.13-million this year in the total value of taxable property in town -- coming almost entirely from new construction and improvements -- at the current tax rate, the town would have to make up some of the money. The town is finished paying off a loan, but still needs to come up with about $13,000 to maintain the same $487,380 operating budget.

Commissioners noted they aren't legally bound to keep the $3 tax rate, but once the maximum is set, it's difficult to go above it. Commissioners agreed it would be better to set the rate high, then come down when the budget is prepared. The city also has reserves it can tap to make up shortfalls.

Pierce told commissioners the federal government refused to hear census complaints until this month, and the city is preparing its appeal. But the mayor, known for his distaste for big government, said, "You figure, eight or 10 years from now, this may be settled."

Pierce said the census ignored residents who use post office boxes as their mailing address in a city where door-to-door mail delivery has historically not been available. He said many residents have told him they were not contacted by census takers.

"It's just not possible that we went down," Pierce said. "We've had new construction, more people moving into town, and people aren't leaving."

In other business, commissioners said the city is inspecting its 70 fire hydrants. Hydrants that aren't working properly will be replaced.

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