BELLEAIR SHORE - Consider Belleair Shore. It is a tiny town, but there are those who love it.
There are also those who scorn it, like the Big Paper, which seems to be pledged to mocking any of those in our society who have had success.
And there are those who consistently refer to the mile-long town by the Gulf of Mexico as Belleair ShoreS. No final "s" please, as those denizens of the town will tell you.
It used to be that much controversy and struggle went on in Belleair Shore. There was jousting among residents. Lawsuits. Bad feelings.
Now the waters in this town have been calm for a long time and the bad old days have just about faded from memory.
Much of the credit for this sea change in atmosphere can be laid at the doorstep of Mayor John Robertson who has led the city calmly, pleasantly and responsibly. v Members of the Town Commission meet in pleasant and cooperative circumstances. Voices are never raised. Comity reigns. There is respect and consideration.
Bob Schmidt, John Hayes and Carl Hilton are veteran commission members. Ray Piscitelli is newer, having taken the place of Mary Alice Grizzle.
And you look at the tax price residents are paying for living in what may be the smallest town in the state if not the country and there is more wonder.
Where taxes seem to go up everywhere else, they go down in Belleair Shore.
Robertson and the commission's sure hand has kept expenditures down. Lorraine Blankenship, the town clerk, keeps a close watch on all the paperwork. She used to do the same thing in Belleair until she retired. There is much less to do now, but the idea is the same.
The tax rate in Belleair Shore for last year's budget was .7204. That's less than a mill. It means that a residence assessed at, for example, $750,000 with the $25,000 homestead exemption pays $544 in taxes to Belleair Shore.
It looks like the tax rate could go even lower as the commission works on the budget for fiscal year 2006-07. Outside income - that is, revenue other than that from ad valorem taxes - is up somewhat while projected expenditures only increase about $4,000.
Exact figures have to await the figure on assessed valuation of properties in the town, and they will go up, as they always do.
The revenue from ad valorem taxes has gone down over the past three years - 2004, $85,376; 2005, $64,129; 2006, $57,729. Lower ad valorem revenue means lower taxes.
Where the annual budget just a few years ago was up around $100,000 or more, it is now $15,000 to $20,000 lower than that.
Whether a municipality is big or small. This kind of efficiency comes only from good and careful management.
That is what Belleair Shore seems to be enjoying these days.
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