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HomeBusiness & CommunityTough Budget Decisions Ahead for Brooksville City Council

Tough Budget Decisions Ahead for Brooksville City Council

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On June 24, the Brooksville City Council held a special budget meeting to discuss a variety of pressing financial topics. They delved into the details of the Fire Assessment Rate and the American Rescue Plan Act, which the Sun will be covering in another issue, as well as a potential change to the ad valorem millage rate of 5.9.

On Monday, the council’s finance director, Autumn Sullivan, presented a detailed breakdown of what the ad valorem and the estimated reserves would be at various rates ranging from 5.9 to 7.0. For the City of Brooksville, one mill is equal to $720,000. At the current millage, the reserves are roughly $1.4 million, while their carryover is $3.7 million. The rest of the data shown by Sullivan is listed in the table included here.

According to Sullivan, the FGFOA (Florida Government Finance Officers Association) recommends that a city council has a reserve of two months of their expenditures for FY2025, which amounts to more than $1.9 million. Seeing as Brooksville’s reserves are about $500,000 shy of the recommendation, how will the council reach that threshold?

The council members were understandably hesitant to increase the current millage rate, which has been in place since 2020. Council Member David Bailey was willing to “be the bad guy,” as he put it, and initially suggested a small raise to 6.1. Bailey noted that due to the city’s population of roughly 10,000 and a relatively poor infrastructure, some sort of increase is necessary.

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“Council is going to get caught, the city is going to get caught with a lot of these fees that we are not being able to pay for […] without going up on our millage,” Bailey said. “I am sorry for people that live in these risqué areas that cost a lot to live in, but it costs money to keep things floating […] We have more population than most every city that Charlene had just mentioned, and their millage is a lot higher than ours.”

The information provided by City Manager Charlene Kuhn regarding other municipalities around the state are listed below for comparison:

Bushnell: Population – 3,204 (Millage Rate: 3.5692)
Crystal River: Population – 3,563 (Millage Rate: 6.59)
Dade City: Population – 8,151 (Millage Rate: 7.14)
Inverness: Population – 7,934 (Millage Rate: 7.0386)

Vice Mayor Christa Tanner acknowledged that there are some tough decisions to be made moving forward. The city has needs that must be addressed, but the astronomical prices that people are paying for everyday goods is becoming untenable.

“If, for some reason, we were to consider raising the millage rate, the difference that would mean for our citizens at taxable values […] it is insane to walk in a grocery store, put gas in your tank right now with inflation,” said Tanner. “It is really hard […] to make people pay more when they are paying more for everything else, too.”

Council Member Thomas Bronson urged that they should comb through different programs and look for areas that are not essential. Mayor Blake Bell seconded this notion and added that the local art gallery currently has tax dollars going towards it, but the council has been attempting to turn it into a financially sustainable project that does not require taxation.

“Those are the types of things that we have to look at because I would rather not raise taxes on struggling families in the terrible economy right now […] to make sure we are not putting additional burdens on the taxpayers of this city,” said the mayor. A decision on the tentative millage rate will have to be reached soon, though. The city leaders will need to vote on the tentative rate at their next budget meeting on July 29 so Sullivan can submit it by the deadline on August 1.

The upcoming budget meetings are as follows:
July 29, 2024, Special Budget Meeting 3 p.m. City Hall
Aug. 12, 2024, Special Budget Meeting 3 p.m. City Hall
Sept. 16, 2024, City Council Final Public Budget Hearing 6:30 p.m. City Hall

Table showing millage rate options and resulting reserves [Credit: City of Brooksville Data]
Table showing millage rate options and resulting reserves [Credit: City of Brooksville Data]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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