Chiefland millage down a 'smidgen'

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Chiefland property owners can breathe a sigh of relief as their property tax rates will go down a smidgen this year.

However the Chiefland City Commission received proposals to raise fees, water and sewer rates, to go to a four-day work week and discussed the possibility of tying future fee and rate increases to the Consumer Price Index.

The City Commission voted in its regular meeting Monday night to lower the rate from 4.7536 mills to 4.75 mills and to hold its budget meetings on September 9 and 23.

The city's action comes just one week after the Levy County Commission voted to keep its millage rate at last year's level and rejected lowering it.

Before its regular commission meeting, the commissioners held their second budget workshop to trim more from their budget.

City Manager Grady Hatrzog presented a budget totaling $2,834,832.18. At the same time he also asked the commission to look at the possibility of going to a four-day workweek.

Hartzog estimated the four-day work week would save the city $9,731.04 in gas and $1,475.04 in utilities in the next year. He noted that closing city hall alone would save $1,100 a year on the utility bill.

"We may hear some pros and cons," Hartzog said. "I'm sure we'll hear from the public on this."

The city manager said it has been hard putting the budget together, "It's been a real tough year trying to keep costs down to our customers."

Vice Mayor Teresa Barron said because the city has been conservative about spending it was able to balance the budget without a lot of pain. "We could be in the position of some other governments that are cutting positions."

Barron suggested the commission consider increasing future fee and rate increases on an annual basis and pegging it to a cost of living measure.

She cited the example of having a fee go up once every few years from $3 to $4 as a big increase of 33 percent. "Every year we could go up and it wouldn't be extravagant," she said. Hartzog agreed saying such annual increases "wouldn't be a drastic change."

The commission did change one of Hartzog's recommendations on a worthless check policy. The city manager said the city received seven to eight bad checks last week and it costs labor and time reworking records and contacting customers to get accounts current.

"I guess it's a sign of our economy," Mayor Teal Pomeroy said.

The commission approved allowing city staffers to refuse to accept checks for up to two years on accounts where two bad checks have been written in a six-month period. Hartzog had sought a permanent ban. And they kept the bad check charge at $25, refusing to raise it to $30.

He also asked the commission to consider raising the rental rates for Usher center and to charge a 25 percent differential to non-residents renting the facility.

Water and sewer rates also got some study with Hartzog noting that while the city sets 4,999 gallons per month as the current minimum usage level other cities in the area use 1,000 to 1,500 gallons as the minimum water usage level.

The city now charges a base rate of $7.50 plus a usage charge of

$1.85 for 1,000 to 4,999 gallons;

$2.00 for 4,999 to 9,999

$2.25 for 9,999 to 14,999 and

$2.50 for above 14,999 gallons.

Under the proposed increase the base rate would remain the same, but the usage charge would be

$1.85 for 1,000 to 2,499 gallons

$2.00 for 2,499 to 4,999

$2.25 for 4,999 to 9,999

$2.50 for above 9,999

In other business the commission:

_ Agreed to designate Strickland Park as a Disaster Recovery Center site to be used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for free.

_ Instructed the staff to draw up an adult business ordinance using elements from ordinances regulating such businesses in Valdosta, Ga., and Gainesville, and Levy County's adult business licensing ordinance.

_ Approved on second reading a change in the land use for 100 acres on County Road 321 between State Road 129 and County Road 320 from rural/agriculture to single family and multi-family residential. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Rollin Hudson dissenting.

_ Approved on second reading the re-zoning of 1 acre of land from residential to retail on the north side of County Road 320 across from the site of the proposed Tri-County Hospital.

_ Approved on first reading an ordinance to require mandatory water and sewer hookups where service is available for new construction. Existing homes would have the option of joining as long as there is a functional septic tank on site. If the septic system fails, the home would be required to hook-up to the sewer system

_ Approved extending an agreement with the Levy County School Board for funding of school crossing guards at the same level as last year - $10,400. The commission sought an increase, but the school board denied it. After the rejection one school crossing guard said he would work for free, making the extension possible.