Florida Keys News
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
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Slight tax hike for Marathon

MARATHON -- No public comment was made last week at the city of Marathon's first of two public budget hearings.

The City Council set a tentative property tax rate of $219.89 for every $100,000 of non-homestead exempt property value for fiscal year 2012-13.

That amounts to a slight tax increase from this year, according to City Manager Roger Hernstadt.

A tax rate of $205.12 per $100,000 in value would have raised the same amount of tax revenue -- $3.52 million -- as this year. Next year's proposed rate would generate $3.71 million, instead.

According to Hernstadt, a $96,000 increase will help fund two firefighter positions and help pay for an increase in the Key West bus service. Additional expenses for the Pigeon Key Ferry have also been factored in.

Hernstadt said the city was able to trim some spending to keep tax increases to a minimum.

"What we've done is realign some responsibilities within the city, reached a contract agreement with the firefighters," he said. "We also continued to use technology to reduce our costs."

Hernstadt attributed the lack of public comment during the 32-minute-long hearing to three previous workshops where budgets details were hashed out.

Despite the proposed increase, Hernstadt stands behind his budget.

"This budget is extremely effective under the uncertain financial times," he said. "The city needs to move forward and continue to carry service."

Hernstadt said his staff also looked at other taxing authorities, such as the Monroe County School District and the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, and, compared to them, Marathon's increase is "miniscule."

"We have done a number down as low as it can possibly be," he said.

Hernstadt also cited stagnant property values as a reason for the tax increase.

"The main reason is property value isn't really growing," he said.

Hernstadt added that Marathon offers the best bang for the buck among the Keys municipalities.

"It's the lowest cost in the Florida Keys for municipal services," he said.

The second and final budget is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, at the Marathon Government Center.

jgore@keysnews.com

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