Sarasota taxes increase 6.8%

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SARASOTA, FL--- Property taxes in the City of Sarasota are going up. City commissioners approved the 2014 budget and it includes an overall tax increase.

"They kinda stunk that one in on us," said Janet Hutchinson referring to  city commissioners decision to increase the mileage rate to 8.3 percent. The vote happened in Thursday's commission meeting. 

"They're hurting the homeowners because they're increasing the property taxes and their already up there high enough," added Hutchinson. 

When the 8.3% mileage rate increase is combined with the decrease in the debt levy, property owners are left with an overall tax increase of about 6.8 percent.  That change equates to about $50 for a property valued at $200,000 and officials say the move was necessary.

"This is a small step in towards recovering what is nearly a 40% loss in revenues in the city's budget since 2008," said city manager Tom Barwin.

During that time the city loss about 6 million in revenue.  Barwin says the resulted in the loss 250 employees and cuts in services.  But the increase will mean restoring some of the services.

"We've resumed street sweeping now in all our neighborhood on a monthly bases, it had been quarterly before.  We are increasing our grass cutting cycle from a ten day cycle to a 7 day cycle.  This budget contains $30 million in instructor and capital improvements."

Barwin says those improvements include re surfacing about 13 miles of area streets.  But, the big ticket item is the $3 million increase in pension obligation that the city is required to meet.  Still it's move that has many residents split on both sides of the issue.

"I think with the economy and many residents out of work property taxes should stay the same," said Kimbery.

But Bud Stanley disagreed he said, "They need the money or they would not be raising the taxes. As long as they don't frivolous spend it, I'm in favor."

Still people like Hutchinson say the city should have explored other options.  "I'd rather them increase the sales taxes," Hutchinson added. 

Even though the city's tax rate is increasing they are eliminating 11 positions.