Crystal River City Hall File

Crystal River City Hall is pictured along U.S. 19 in Crystal River.

Editor's Note: Due to a reporter's error, a paragraph about Crystal River having a revenue shortfall was incorrectly printed in the Sept. 11 edition of the Chronicle, and removed from this online version of the story.

At a first of two public hearings, Crystal River City Council on Monday unanimously voted in a new tentative millage rate and respective revenues and costs for the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency, or CRA.

Council’s final vote on their finances for the 2019/20 fiscal year will be on Sept. 23.

No citizens or council members commented during Monday’s public hearings. City officials deliberated over these numbers at budget workshops in April and August.

City Manager Ken Frink explained to council members prior to their vote that an increasing list of projects is behind the tentative 4.8 millage rate, a 0.30 increase in mills from this fiscal year.

With a taxable value of roughly $492 million, Crystal River’s new millage rate us expected take in $5.1 million for its general fund.

Frink said the $351,275 increase in the general fund from this fiscal year is from employing an IT specialist and a staff member for the planning department, incurring a cost bump for Citrus County Sheriff’s Office law services and paying for code rewrites.

A savings transfer of $76,705 will also have to make up the general fund’s balance because of a shortage in expected revenues.

Crystal River staff is expecting $38.67 million in total revenue from tax and department sources, and $28.49 million in expenses, netting the city $10.17 million.

Frink said Crystal River’s CRA, which council members chair, and its proposed $4.4 million budget — a $1.12 million raise — will help shoulder costs for the Riverwalk’s boardwalk and city’s future town square.

City manager updates council on Riverwalk

Frink urged council on Monday to let their Florida legislators know more money is needed for Crystal River to pay for the second and final phase of its Riverwalk.

It’s one of the city’s many state funding requests.

If lawmakers approve it, the $2 million would go towards the total, $6.2 million price tag of the Riverwalk. Crystal River has already committed $2.5 million to the overall project.

Frink said he’s still waiting for a few impacted property owners along the boardwalk’s proposed route on the northern shores of Cedar Cove to formalize access and development agreements with the city.

After that, the various state and federal agencies will take between six to eight months to issue permits.

Once permits are OK'd, Crystal River takes them to the U.S. Treasury Department to acquire the $1.7 million in monies from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Frink said construction on the waterside section is expected to begin in the winter of 2021.

After a suggestion by Councilman Ken Brown, Frink said he’d talk with property owners to see if temporary pathways could connect the dead-end sidewalks of the Riverwalks landward section, opened last March.

Council also: 

* Voted 5-0 to close southbound lanes of U.S. 19 — from Citrus Avenue to Southeast Paradise Point — for the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Parade on Dec. 7.

This was the third time council discussed this year’s route, which was once proposed to detour regular traffic onto Northeast Eighth Avenue, which city staff and sheriff’s advisers later agreed couldn’t accommodate larger vehicles.

* Voted 5-0 for the city to swap a 2,500-square-foot piece of land with a similar parcel that’s part of 565 NW First Ave., owned by the estate of Sylvia Longley. It’s the city’s intent to turn that property into parking and access for business along South Citrus Avenue.

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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