BELLEAIR BLUFFS -- Belleair Shore's mayor and town attorney will negotiate with Belleair Beach officials in an attempt to resolve the dispute over water bill refunds, commissioners decided at their meeting here June 22.
Officials of the tiny town meet in this nearby city because Belleair Shore has no public buildings of its own.
John Elias, the town attorney, gave a thoroughgoing analysis of the situation that, in his estimation, would make a lawsuit inadvisable, even though there are legal questions that could be raised, he said, that could only be decided by a court.
The controversy centers around an agreement between the two towns dating from 1969. Belleair Shore claims that Belleair Beach unilaterally changed the fee schedule for water several years ago and thereby breached the contract.
One of the complicating factors is that Belleair Shore for years paid the water bills for the whole town. When the rates were changed and the burden became too great, the cost of water was shifted back to individual households.
Aiming to solve the problem equitably, Elias and Mayor John Robertson will talk to Belleair Beach officials and point out that Belleair Shore's residents seek to be refunded the difference in the amount they paid under new rates levied by Belleair Beach and what they should have paid under the agreement.
While that money subject has been cantankerous, Belleair Shore on the budget front is shining. The town's tax rate was 1.1047 mills last year. The rollback rate (the millage rate that would raise the same amount of money in 2006 that was raised in 2005) is 0.92.
Belleair Shore is surpassing both those numbers on the descending scale.
The millage rate in the early estimates of the budget is put at 0.7204, a 34 percent decrease. The planned for millage rate is 21 percent below the rollback rate.
The assessor's office put the assessed value of the town at $93,692,400 which translates into more than $100 million in real value for an average value of almost $2 million for each of the town's residences.
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