Key West property owners still face a 5 percent increase following a lengthy discussion on city finance options during a day-long budget workshop Monday.
The increase is above what is called the "rollback rate" meaning the millage rate that will generate the same amount of money as last year.
City commissioners also chose to keep gifts of taxpayer money to selected non-profits at current levels, overriding staff recommendations that the money to those organizations be scaled back starting this year.
A plan to eliminate such gifts to nonprofits will begin next year, commissioners said.
If the decisions made by commissioners stand as the budget process continues, the average annual increase on a house assessed at $300,000 would be $40 per year.
"We accomplished plenty," Mayor Craig Cates said of the meeting. "We put the funding back for the nonprofits. I think that's important for the community."
A larger tax increase to meet the city's general operating needs was averted in part by an agreement to raise parking fees at most city meters from $1.50 to $2 per hour.
"We gained some clarity that we left hanging at the last meeting," Commissioner Clayton Lopez said. "We gave staff some time to go ahead and solidify numbers we threw around last time. It's a step-by-step process."
Lopez was particularly impressed by a suggestion Key West's new city manager, Bob Vitas, made during discussions on roadway repairs.
In his experience, Vitas said, prioritizing street repairs by the age of the highway and the need presented would be a helpful way of setting the stage for such work and the expenses related to it.
In a morning session, commissioners heard reports from department heads making themselves accountable for expenses already incurred, and explaining how they plan to spend money allocated to them for next year.
City Property Manager Marilyn Wilbarger surprised some commissioners when she disclosed the amount of money the city takes in by selling fuel and dockspace at the Key West Bight. The projected number was $4,116,516.
"I find that hard to believe, I am sorry," Commissioner Mark Rossi said. "That's $343,000 per month divided by 12. You guys are doing $10,000 a day dockage and fuel there?"
Wilbarger answered in the affirmative.
"Some days are better than others," she said.
The next step in the process will be the first of two public hearings, scheduled for Sept. 6. At the second hearing on Sept. 18, whatever budget is finally agreed upon must be adopted.
City officials said the biggest impact to the budget for the coming year is the fall-off of money from cruise ship disembarkation fees, followed by payroll increases, including pension and health insurance costs.
On the matter of the non-profits, the city will give $25,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs, $30,500 to the Guidance/ Care Center for mental health services, and $1,800 to the AARP.
Money given to the Southernmost Homeless Assistance League (SHAL) for operation of the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter and mobile outreach remains at $444,118. The program called Idle Hands, administered by A Positive Step, will receive $34,000.
Commissioner Teri Johnston would have preferred sticking with the staff recommendations to decrease those gifts.
"Key West has 144 non-profits and all of them could be standing here saying I wish I had $25,000," Johnston said. "We asked [staff] to set up a budget and come in with a certain number and then we dissect it ... Everybody in Key West gives, but it is their option to give to the nonprofits if they choose to. Not to have the government make that decision for them through their tax dollars."