Work on the city budget drones on as various groups stoke up on how they will try to affect the process. The Peoples Budget Review seems to be off to a good start. They are collecting a lot of information in their survey, and I am sure as long as the information backs up the city administration's plan it will be considered valuable.
The special interest groups, like the arts council, the social service groups and neighborhoods are just starting to ramp up. So things are moving along at about the anticipated speed. The real yelling and screaming will start in a few weeks.
It seems for the moment that the Mayor Bill Foster's center piece to solve the budget dilemma, is to raise the millage rate. Preliminary results from the Peoples Budget Review Survey seem to indicate that the people are ready to consider a tax increase to stop the erosion of services. I think they are just tired of listing to the Mayor and council members whine.
The tendency in government is make the cuts where they have the most direct affect on the public. The theory is "let's put the pain where THEY feel it". You know, stop mowing the grass in the park, reduce the library hours, cut back on senior services ... the stuff the public really feels. Share the pain. Problem is the only people who get a share of that pain are you.
Before you whiz through that survey magnanimously offering to have your millage rate increased to "save" the city, think about this: the County wants to increase the EMS tax, the Pinellas County School Board is trying with all their might to hold on to an outdated property tax, St. Pete wants to raise your property tax, and there are probably a few others we haven't heard from yet. You could get a real surprise in the mail come September.
One more thing. Never in the history of this county has a city government willing reduced its size or limited its spending. That is until the recession came along and the money dried up. Oh sure they want you to feel the cuts so you will do just what you're doing, agree to give them more money to spend.
Try getting them to tie that millage increase to specifically keeping the libraries open, all the pools open, arts fully funded and some other specifics and see where that goes.
It might not be that bad an idea to just let the boys at City Hall work this little budget problem out on their own.
First, there is all that money in those reserve funds they are carefully protecting. For what?
Then, there is still some room to cut over at engineering, out at storm water, economic development, business assistance, we could use a little less management at PD, and the list goes on.
But then YOU probably won't feel much of that pain.
The opportunity to get city government downsized is right now. As the economy improves the opportunity will be lost. If you're willing to throw some more money at the current system, they are more than willing to take it and spend it.
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