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The Local Agenda: Final vote on Gainesville's roll-up, budget set for Tuesday
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Gainesville City Council budget hearing

When: 5:30 p.m. today

Where: Gainesville Justice Center, 701 Queen City Parkway, Gainesville

The vote could be close, but Gainesville City Council is expected to give final approval to a property tax rate roll-up with its fiscal year 2013 budget tonight.

City Council will hold its second public hearing on the proposed fiscal year 2013 budget and the ordinance to set the millage rate. The budget goes into effect in July.

City Council will vote on a roll-up that’s estimated to raise the property tax rate from the current 2.92 mills to 3.06 mills. That includes roll-ups from all city funds including general government, parks and recreation and debt service.

Millage rate is the multiplier to determine what a property owner pays in taxes, with 1 mill equaling $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value.

While all members of City Council are showing support for the proposed $28 million budget, Councilmen George Wangemann and Bob Hamrick are pushing back against the roll-up.

Hamrick spoke out against the roll-up at a May 31 work session, arguing he expects the city to have enough funds to cover its expenses without a millage rate increase.

“I’m all for the proposed budget,” Hamrick said, “but I still feel like there will be sufficient revenue in the fund balance to maintain the current millage rate.”

Wangemann voted in opposition in the first tally on the roll-up on June 5. He said he would prefer to use the city’s “rainy day fund” to cover the budget without putting the burden on taxpayers.

Wangemann had initially said he was willing to support the roll-up in May.

He cited opposition from his constituents for the change of heart.

However, there has been little public outrage about the roll-up proposal.

During the last public hearing on the rate, four people spoke. Their opinions were split with two in support and two opposed.

However, only two of the speakers were city of Gainesville residents.

The rest of the council — Mayor Danny Dunagan and Councilwomen Ruth Bruner and Myrtle Figueras — voted for the increase.

All, in their own ways, said the increase was a difficult choice, but a necessary one to maintain services and remain fiscally responsible.

Officials are expecting expenses could rise in 2015 when a grant that allowed the city to hire more firefighters runs out. After that, the city will be on the hook to cover the additional salary costs.

“We’ve done everything we can possibly do to streamline government,” Dunagan said at the June 5 public hearing. “I don’t want to roll (the tax rate) up either. I want to roll them back. But it is what it is.”

Despite the opposition, Dunagan said he expects there is enough support from the majority of council to pass the budget as proposed.

The roll-up’s opponents seem to agree.

“I anticipate a 3-2 vote in favor of the roll-up,” Wangemann said. “If anyone else wants to go along with us and satisfy our constituents, I would be very happy about that.”

The roll-up is intended to adjust the rate enough to bring in the same amount of revenues as the previous year from property taxes. Gainesville is expecting a 7 percent decrease in the tax digest.

Depending on a property owner’s valuations, some may be paying more or less in property taxes.

The final roll-up rate may not be determined for several weeks, pending the final tally on the tax digest.

City Schools tax millage rate also on City Council’s plate

In addition to the city government millage rate, Gainesville City Council will also give final approval to the Gainesville City Schools’ proposed tax rate.

The Gainesville City Schools Board voted Tuesday night to keep the tax rate steady from the previous year.

The proposed rate from the school system is 7.39 mills.

City Council, which must approve the school district’s millage rate, unanimously approved the rate during its first hearing earlier this month.

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