LAUREL HILL — The City Council voted unanimously to maintain the ad valorem tax rate at 3.5 mills for the upcoming budget year. The amount brings in approximately $58,000 a year to the city.

Councilman Scott Moneypenny opened the topic for discussion during the July 8 meeting.

He said, “Understanding how the property values work and the number of properties that don’t pay it, we shouldn’t take advantage of the people who do pay it. If we lower it, we are going to get hurt on grants; we want to take care of ourselves first.”

Another topic on the evening's agenda was how the city plans to propose projects that would receive funding from the Triumph Gulf Coast Oil Spill Trust Fund that allocated approximately $6.7 billion to the state following the BP oil spill of 2010. 

According to Moneypenny, an estimated $15-$16 million of the settlement has been allocated to Okaloosa County, but getting the money may be difficult because Gov. Rick Scott still needs to appoint two members to Triumph Gulf Coast, at which point the board will decide how to dispense the money throughout the county.

“The county will divvy it up as they see fit. Escambia’s county commissioner said that nothing will go to the cities,” Moneypenny said.

“The cart is before the horse here,” he said.  “We have the money, but we need to know how they are going to award the money to the city and it has to be ‘transformational.’”

Two potential projects that the city council may attempt to seek funds for include Steel Mill Creek Road improvements and extending sewer system.