Panama City Commission votes on 2022 budget changes

Panama City

PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — After a four-hour-long discussion, the Panama City City Commission has come to a decision on changes for next year’s budget. 

The hot topics of the night included raising water and sewer rates and lowering the milage.

Monday the City Commission approved their second water and sewer rate hike in a row. 

Next year customers will see an increase of one dollar and 35 cents per 1000 gallons of use. But City Commissioner Josh Street said this may not stick around for very long.

“Rather than just saying we are going to adopt something for the next five years, let’s do what we have to do today but let’s come back and revisit this next year so that we can see can we pass on savings for the consumer,” Street said. 

He said this extra money will go directly toward infrastructure repairs.

Many residents came to the meeting to oppose this rate hike. They say they don’t see the city fixing any problems so why should they continue to be taxed.

City Manager Mark McQueen said it is a process.

“We heard from our citizens today that they want more services, more things being done in their city and to ensure that we need to have a measured approach to how we balance that budget,” McQueen said. 

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The city commission also voted unanimously to lower the city’s millage rate to 4.899 mils. 

Last year’s rate was set at 4.999 mils so this will be lower, but property values have gone up. 

McQueen said the city is dedicated to lowering the resident’s ad valorem taxes.

“The city commissioners and the mayor are committed to making it more cost-effective to live in The City of Panama City to own property in The City of Panama City,” McQueen said.

McQueen said this could help the city attract new entry-level employees. As of now the city only has three employees dedicated to street repairs like potholes, but this budget will double that number.   

He said although this is a small decrease it is a start.

“We’ve also seen an uptick in what the city will receive from the state in terms of revenue projections that were certified by the state and with that we feel very comfortable that it’s appropriate to give back to our taxpayers,” McQueen said. 

City commissioners say by lowering the millage rate and raising the water rates they are moving revenue where it needs to be to better the city.

This new millage rate is only tentative and will be officially voted on at their next city commission meeting Tuesday, September 28.

The last item on Monday’s agenda was the garbage rates and with that, the city voted to keep it the same. 

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