While the Niceville City Council has not officially decided on the final budget for the next fiscal year – it looks like the five voting members of the council will not institute a tax hike on property owners inside the city.
Tuesday night’s budget meeting revealed staff made cuts to the budget to keep last year’s millage rate of 3.7. The initial budget the City of Niceville’s staff rolled out to the council in August proposed a property tax increase of 0.3 mills. This increase would have worked out to about an extra $16 dollars per month for the average homeowner inside the city limits.
But just what exactly will remain in the budget and what will get cut is not yet clear.
After the city staff announced they were able to create a budget for the city at the same tax rate as last year, several questions came up as to how the budget had been balanced.
Staff cut a remodel of the bathrooms at Twin Oaks Park, worth about $60,000, and some other smaller projects worth about $50,000 to balance the budget. Additionally, the staff cut the Assistant City Manager position, which had been included in the previous year’s budget but never filled.
The 10% raise for firefighters and police officers stayed in the budget.
Councilperson Cathy Alley talked about the need to keep the remodel of the bathroom at Twin Oaks park in the city’s budget for the next fiscal year. She noted that the facility’s remodel mattered for city pride. “I mean, it’s really embarrassing to our city to have that kind of a bathroom out there that so many people come from other areas that want to use it,” Alley said. She suggested that the city lobby the Tourism Development Committee and Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners for bed tax dollars to go toward the remodel, as many people from out of town use the Twin Oaks Park facility.
City Clerk Dan Doucet said that the city would more than likely get approved for the money, but IT Director Chad Morris noted that they would have to wait another year to get funding as the TDCs budget had already been finalized.
Councilman Sal Nodjomian noted that they would probably have the funds for the bathroom remodel so long as the city followed its pattern of spending under its budget. “We have, at least in my coming up on 10 years of the council, historically under-executed our budget. That is an easy project to use excess funds as we get through the year.”
Also on the docket for tonight’s budget meeting – whether or not to include an assistant city manager position in next year’s budget. The position, which the council agreed should pay somewhere in the range of $100,000 to $110,000 per year, would draw money from several areas of the budget. Councilperson Bill Schaetzle noted this was his priority in the coming budget, as he felt the city needed to prepare for the retirement of current City Manager Lannie Corbin – who has served in the role since 1971.
The council came to a consensus that the job should be added back into the budget as well.
Christopher here: I’m going to give you these numbers, but I cannot emphasize enough these are the current proposed numbers for the coming year’s budget, not the final numbers. The city council has to vote twice – once on September 8th and again on September 22nd to officially adopt and implement the budget. Until that happens, these numbers are just a proposal.
With that out of the way – here’s the latest spending proposal from the City of Niceville for the next fiscal year:
In total, this proposed budget would increase the amount of property taxes raised from $4.69 million to $5.35 million. This increase comes from the fact that homes, businesses, and other taxable properties in Niceville have increased in appraised value over the last year.
Basically, your home is worth more – so you pay more in taxes – but the percentage of your home or businesses value that you pay stays the same.
Property taxes make up about a quarter of the city’s budget. The rest of the money comes from other governments (like the county, state or feds) through grants, charges for services (your water and sewer bill is a good example), licenses and permits (like a building permit or business license), and money that has been left in reserve from previous years.
In total, the City of Niceville projects a total budget of about $21.5 million this year, up from $17.54 million in the last budget year.
According to RedFin.com, the median sale price for a home in the city of Niceville is about $417,000. Therefore, with a 3.7 millage rate from the city, you’ll pay a total of $1,542.90 in taxes to the city this coming year if you own the ‘typical’ home.
Here’s where the money goes:
General government is everything that helps to support the day-to-day functions of the city. So city administration, legal counsel, finance, custodians, parks and recreation, pens and pencils, elections – it’s all here. All in all, the city proposes (in this version of the budget) to spend $3.33 million dollars to cover these costs.
The Niceville Police Department is the second-biggest cost for the city government in this proposed budget. The council would spend approximately $4.28 million, or about $268 per resident on the department. That’s about $100 per person less than the national average, according to the Urban institute.
The department currently has funding for 32 officers, but can only staff up to 24 right now, due the nationwide shortage of police officers in the United States.
The city’s third-largest line item is the Fire Department. The department proposes spending about $3.1 million this year for fire protection.