Port St. Joe city commissioners held the final public hearing on the 2017-18 budget last while seeking to leave some bruising words in the rearview mirror.

Port St. Joe city commissioners held the final public hearing on the 2017-18 budget last while seeking to leave some bruising words in the rearview mirror.

Commissioners adopted a millage rate of 3.5914, a millage which has been unchanged for at least the past 12 years.

A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in taxable personal property.

Due to a slight increase in property values, bumping the value of the mill up, that same millage rate is 3.62 percent above the rollback rate, the millage that would bring in the same level of funding as the current fiscal year.

Due to that increase in property values, the millage rate will bring in an additional $44,777, to increase ad valorem taxes for the upcoming year to $1.034 million.

“This was probably the easiest budget to put together since I’ve been here,” said city financial officer Mike Lacour.

In adopting the final resolutions ratifying the budget, commissioners also sought to put behind them controversy surrounding the raising of commissioner salaries.

Commissioner salaries will rise from $300 a month to $1,000 per month.

The proposal drew sharp debate among commissioners as well as several citizens, including a former commissioner.

At times the discussion reached such a fevered pitch that citizens took to the podium to plead for a more civil discourse and a focus on more pressing issues.

But, last week, Buzzett gestured to put an end to the issue by voting with Commissioners Brett Lowry, Bo Patterson and William Thursbay in support of the raises.

“Everybody knows how I feel about this, but for the sake of unity on the board I will vote in favor,” Buzzett said.

Commissioner David Ashbrook, who also dissented in the initial vote, echoed Buzzett, saying while he was at odds with the level of the pay hike but for the sake of unity would support the salary increase.

At the end of the meeting, Thursbay that his emotions could sometimes best him and apologized if he offended anyone during the debates over the raises.

Those were not the only raises included in the budget.

Employees were given a 3 percent cost of living increase and four merit raises of $1 per hour was given to the police chief, water plant manager and one employee each at the water plant and wastewater plant.

One other wastewater plant employee received a bump in salary due to securing their operator’s license.

The city, and particularly employees, caught a break on insurance, with the city’s plan options increasing by just 2.9 percent, the smallest increase in years.

The city’s contribution to employee health plans is capped at $705 per month; nearly all employees will see their out-of-pocket costs go up by just $9 per month with the identical plan.

The budget reflects one new position, that for a police officer, as well as $1 million in combined funding for the Long Ave. repaving project (which will cost more) and dollars from grants for upgrades to the Centennial Building and Benny Roberts Park.

Those are grants the city is applying for; awards will not be known until early next year.

*The board also held a second reading and formally adopted an ordinance to abandon a piece of property once platted as a continuation of Seventh Street but which now is an empty lot.

Commissioners abandoned the property because it was their only choice, given the original intent for the land, to be a road.

Ownership of the small parcel reverts, by halves, to the adjacent property owners, Sunset Coastal Grill and Mark and Kaye Haddock.