BARTOW — Bartow City Commissioners had planned to talk about several issues at an unusual session on Wednesday, Sept. 2, that included a workshop to discuss installing a citywide fiber-optic network and the formal approval of the 2020/2021 tax rate and budget.
Normally, the commission meets on Mondays, but it rescheduled its September sessions for Wednesdays — after the Polk County Commission's Tuesday evening hearings to approve the county's tax levies.
Bartow's tax rate is expected to stay at the 2019 level of 3.0862 mills, which means taxpayers are charged about $3 for every $1,000 in taxable property values. That gives the city about $125 million for its budget, not all of which comes from ad valorem or property taxes.
City Manager George Long had presented the commission with the tentative budget back in July, where it met with unanimous, if informal, support from all five commissioners.
Long needed to get tentative approval of the proposed budget to get the tax figures to the county, so he could finalize the budget for the Sept. 10 session, where the commission was expected to give it the rubber stamp.
The city leaders were set to hold a 4 p.m. workshop prior to their 6 p.m. formal session to learn Long's proposals to expand and install fiber-optic services throughout the city.
Long earlier explained that the installation of the fiber service could cost about $24 million, and the workshop was to take a look at how to pay for it.
“I hope to have a staff recommendation to present to you at the workshop,” Long said when asking to set a time for the workshop, though he did not elaborate on what methods he would propose.
Unrelated to budget issues, Long also last week extended the Bartow Public Library's closure for another month. He had initially planned to have the library open on Aug. 31, but as the pandemic continued he opted to keep its doors closed until at least the end of September.
While the city has no mask-wearing mandate in place, last week Long said the city will be distributing masks to many of its residents. Bartow had a reported 822 COVID-19 cases reported as of Sept. 3.
Long issued a press release Sept. 2, saying masks will be mailed to city residents to encourage people to use them, as well as follow the other familiar Centers for Disease Control guidelines for social distancing and hand-washing.
“To help prevent the spread of COVID in our community, the city of Bartow is providing four cloth masks to every residence in the city of Bartow,” Long said. “These cloth masks are for use indoors and outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained. Recommendations for proper mask use and cleaning will be included with the package.
“Together we can limit and potentially stop the spread of this virus in our community,” he continued. “Please note #WEAREBARTOW on the masks. Wear them proudly or pass them along to someone in need.”
He added the masks would arrive shortly, but had no specific date for their delivery.