Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Layton to consider leaner budget Thursday

LAYTON -- The Layton City Council will take a preliminary vote Thursday, Sept. 5, on a leaner budget than the one approved on first review in July.

Mayor Norman Anderson's latest proposal calls for 2013-14 operating expenditures of $178,450, down from a July proposal of $187,950. The way was paved for more than half of the $9,500 reduction on Aug. 16, when the qualifying period for November's Layton council elections ended with no seats being contested. That allowed Anderson to remove from the budget a $5,000 line item to administer the elections. The rest of the reduction would come from the five-man council foregoing annual stipends of $900 each.

In addition to the reductions, Anderson is asking that Layton use $11,000 more of its cash reserves than he had previously proposed to help fund daily operations. The result is that cumulatively the budget calls for $23,000 less in tax collections than what was put forth in July, when the council gave unanimous initial support of a 35 percent tax increase.

In an interview last week, Anderson insisted that the latest budget proposal sets tax collections at below the so-called "rollback" rate.

"I don't think we can cut anything more than we've cut out of the budget and still operate a city," he said. "Our taxes are below rollback."

But his assertion isn't accurate. Rollback is the rate at which tax collections are the same as they were the previous year. Collections under the Layton proposal, however, would exceed the Layton rollback rate by 9.8 percent. Rollback this year for Layton is a rate of $204 per $100,000 in taxable property, according to the Department of Revenue, a figure that would correspond to just under $94,000 in tax collections. Anderson's latest budget proposal, though, calls for a tax rate of $224 per $100,000 in property value, which would bring in collections of just under $103,000 in 2013-14.

Though the numbers don't correspond with rollback, they are slightly below a much less-frequently discussed measurement known as the adjusted rollback rate. Under Florida law, the adjusted rollback is the maximum levy that a city could have passed in the previous year with a simple majority vote on its town council. With a 3-2 vote last year, Layton could have approved a levy that would have brought in precisely what Anderson is now proposing for 2013-14. Instead, the town council approved a lower rate.

Even with the proposed tax increase for 2013-14, Layton's daily expenditures would still be 13 percent less than what they were in 2011-12, when the town moved $61,000 out of reserves to help fund a $205,000 budget. The proposal to be heard by the council this week calls for the use of $21,000 in reserves.

Anderson emphasized that Layton faces a budgeting challenge that is unique in the Florida Keys this year. Unlike the remainder of the county, where tax rolls are edging back up after a long decline, the town's taxable property value dropped another 5 percent.

"In this very tough fiscal climate, we've already cut as much as we can, so I think we're doing a great job," he said.

But not everybody is so pleased. Resident Laurel Palmeiri, who has organized a small group of Layton residents in hopes of bringing more transparency into the budgeting process, said little has changed.

Like other Layton budgets through the years, the document released to the public ahead of Thursday's meeting includes only general expenditure categories. For example, the $7,100 item for "administrative travel" has no breakdown on what events the administrators are traveling to or how much each event costs.

Likewise, the budget doesn't give salary information for the city's three employees.

In an interview Monday, Palmeiri said she met with Anderson, his assistant Skip Haring and Town Clerk Mimi Young a couple weeks ago but doesn't believe her suggestions are being heard.

She said her group might begin publishing a monthly newsletter.

"This way we could give an opposing view," she said. "Tell what's good in the town and what's bad in the town."

Thursday's hearing will be followed by a final budget hearing on Sept. 16. The 2013-14 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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