The total amount of the budget is $72,710,533.15, with $44,934,394.08 to be raised through taxation. This translates to a 1.5 cent tax rate increase, which the mayor said was due in part to a reduction in ratables over the last year. Property values fell by 1.17 percent from the previous year, dropping from $11,316,442,065 to $11,183,675,429.
Gillian highlighted construction in the city, but also spoke of those who remain without a home since Hurricane Sandy hit the state in 2012.
He spoke about the high level of construction in the city, due in large part to the continuing recovery from Sandy. He pointed to last year at the same time, a little less than four months after the storm hit, when the city was still trying to find a way to recover.
He said the city was better off one year later, but added his enthusiasm for the recovery is “tempered by the fact that some people still have not returned to their homes.”
“We all know business and home owners who remain frustrated,” Gillian said. “Some have received grants, but too many have either been denied or sit in limbo. We continue to urge our state and federal legislators to complete the recovery for everybody.”
He also said the city is committed to rebuilding the 29th Street Fire Station and maintaining a total of three fire stations, despite resistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
At the same time, both the fire department and the police department are facing reductions.
The city reduced its police force by one officer, down to 57 from 58 last year, Gillian said. The fire department will reduce its overtime budget by $200,000 from last year. Both departments will employ seasonal help.
“My direction to the police chief and the fire chief was the same as the other department heads: do not compromise service levels in any way, but deliver these services in the most cost-effective manner possible,” Gillian said.
He claimed the city’s $5.8 million fund balance is the highest in the history of the city.
“So in the year following Hurricane Sandy, and in a year with a somewhat soft tourism season and a very rainy start to the season, we finished with the highest fund balance in our city’s history,” Gillian said.
Later in the night, council approved an ordinance on first reading that allows for the spending of $9,319,000 and borrowing $8,853,050 for capital improvements, including repairs to the beachfront, the repair of various streets, alleys and bulkheads and the repair of public buildings and facilities.
Thursday night’s introduction was the beginning of the process. Public work shops will be held Feb. 19 and 20 at the library.