by Max Royle ~ St. Augustine Beach City Manager

The City’s budget year began on October 1, 2020, and will end September 30, 2021. Here’s an update on what has happening during the past three months concerning the budget and projects.

Two changes make this budget different from previous ones. First, it has a modest property tax increase from 2.3992 mills to 2.45 mills, or from about $2.40 to $2.45 for every $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. Money from the increase will help the City restore its savings, which were depleted to purchase the final 4.5 acres of the beachside Ocean Hammock Park. Also, the millage had not been changed since 2010, though operating costs have increased because of inflation.

Second, an increase of the yearly solid waste fee from $74 to $178 for each single-family home and unit of a duplex and triplex. Previously, this fee had paid for only the DISPOSAL of household waste. Money from the increased fee will pay the costs to COLLECT and dispose of household waste, yard trash and recyclables and cannot be used for any other purposes. This fee increase is part of the City’s effort to diversify its revenue sources. For too long the City has relied on property taxes for most of its income.

So, how are the City’s finances doing? During the first three months of the fiscal year, the City has received $3,171,392 for the General Fund and spent $1,715,859. The surplus of $1,455,533 will shrink during the fiscal year as income from property taxes declines and the City will have to use savings to pay expenses. For the Road/Bridge Fund, revenues as of the end of December were $389,088 and expenditures were $208,481. This surplus will shrink as the City does road paving and drainage projects.

For expenditures, here’s an update of particular projects and purchases:

1. Computer network server for various City departments, $25,000 appropriated. Project completed.

2. Computer network server for Police Department, $25,000 appropriated. Project completed.

3. Lease of three vehicles for Police Department, $150,000 appropriated. Vehicles have been ordered.

4. Twenty mobile data terminals for police vehicles, $60,000 appropriated. Invitation to bid has been prepared.

5. Ocean Hammock Park improvements, $250,000 appropriated, half of which will come from a grant. Improvements are in the design phase.

6. Lakeside Park wooden walkway repairs, $30,000 appropriated. Repairs to be done in the spring of 2021.

7. Repaving of Mickler Boulevard between Pope Road and 16th Street, and Tides End Drive and Oceanside Circle, $290,000 appropriated. Project to start in January 2021.

8. Repair of 11th Street stormwater pipe, $90,000 appropriated. Project currently in design stage. Construction in late spring or early summer, 2021.

9. Drainage improvements in various areas of the City, $25,000 appropriated. Project underway.

10. Vulnerability assessment and resiliency study, $55,000 appropriated. Money is to come from a grant. Phase 1 is nearing completion.

11. Ocean Walk subdivision drainage improvements, $100,000 appropriated for design and permitting. Three engineering firms responded to the City’s Request for Qualifications. A screening committee recommended the firm of Matthews Design Group of St. Augustine. At its January 4, 2021, meeting the City Commission approved the City negotiating with this firm the costs of its services. The results of the negotiation will be reviewed by the Commission at its February 1st meeting.

12. Bypass/dewatering pump for stormwater management, $55,000 appropriated. City is waiting for approval by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

13. Additional pumps for stormwater management, $18,000 appropriated. Pumps have been ordered.

14. Mizell Pond weir replacement. Estimated cost: $4,328,281. $632,000 will be paid by a grant, the rest by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Bid documents are being prepared.

In April, there’ll be another update.