Have a Say on the City's Budget Tonight

The city anticipates a $13 million shortfall in next year's spending plan and is looking for input from the public on what priorities the city should have going forward.

The third and final budget summit for the city's fiscal year 2013 budget will be held tonight at at the Manhattan Casino, 642 22nd St. S. at 6 p.m. The city anticipates a $13 million shortfall in next year's spending plan and is looking for input from the public on what priorities the city should have going forward.

Mayor Bill Foster has said that next year's budget shortfall cannot be met by cuts alone. It has to be met, he said, with a mixture of increased revenue and cuts. 

"We have found that it will no longer be doing more with less," Foster said at the May budget summit. "Gets to this point where we are doing less with less."

Cutting $13 million, Foster cautioned, would force rec centers to closer earlier, limited operating hours for libraries, a decrease in services and programming and even a reduction in the city's most expensive department, the police. 

"We can cut $13 million but it will begin the de-evolution of a city decades in the making," Foster said. 

During the first budget summit, which was held in April, an overwhelming majority of residents that  rather than cutting services. 

Only one speaker of the 32 was opposed to any type of property tax increase.

Brett Page, a St. Pete resident, said he once paid $4,400 in local property taxes in St. Pete. Now, however, he pays $2,200 less. 

"I’m more than willing to pay what’s necessary to keep the city running," Page said at the April budget meeting. "You should set your needs in your budget and (then) set your revenues to met those needs."

The  with a few residents angrily shouting toward the council that they and the city's spending were the problem, not the budget. 

"The (budget) shortfall is a phony," said city council candidate David McKalip. "We hear the same fear mongering. This is all nonsense; build memorial piers to ourselves, silly wasteful street projects ... $75,000 pension and benefits. You have a political class and the rest of us.

"This is a sham, charade, political circus," McKalip continued. "You have all made up your minds. This is a joke. You are having parties at the Trop while the rest of see our taxes go up. The political class is sucking the life out of us. Each one of you are the reason for our problems."

The goal, Foster said, is to find $10 million in additional revenue and make $3 million in cuts. In addition to the possibility of increasing the millage rate, the city is exploring  that would be applied to all parcels in St. Pete. 

Council member Jim Kennedy is in favor of this plan because it gets more people on the tax rolls and is not affected by swings in the economy. Each parcel would be tax and that money would go toward paying for St. Pete's fire and rescue expenses. 

Kennedy said closing the gap with millage only, “will have a chilling effect on the real estate market. If we put everything on the millage rate, it will have a negative effect on people buying property in St. Petersburg.”

“When it is a fire assessment fee, people know where the money is going,” said City Attorney John Wolfe at a May council meeting. “When you do a tax it can go anywhere.”

City Council should get the Mayor's proposed FY13 budget in early July with the proposed millage rate set by the end of July. Council will consider the proposed package in September.

The People's Budget Review is continuing its budget survey push to have 10,000 surveys taken by the September public hearings on the city's budget. As of Tuesday the group has collected more than 4,200 surveys. 

cherylwithac June 13, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I know how to eliminate the $13 million shortfall: cancel the $50 million pier. Then there would even be money not just to hide the homeless but to house them properly, and even to overhaul the pitiful public schools. Oh, but that would't do in a city like St. Petersburg, which caters to the wealthy crowd on Beach Drive. Appearances are all that matter to City Hall, and they're all that have ever mattered here in the Sunshine City, where tourists reign supreme. Just don't mention the hurricanes in the travel brochures.
William Mansell June 13, 2012 at 02:08 PM
The $50 million for the pier was set up from a TIF zone within the 'Intown' redevelopment area, which has been solely allocated for the pier. While it is a huge chunk of money, that $50 million can only be spent on the pier.
Tai Swank June 13, 2012 at 02:25 PM
So letting Wal-Mart slide on $240,000 and spending $250,000 on cameras for the RNC does not seem so smart now does it? I would rather have rec centers stay open longer.
Jack Sprat June 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
"....an overwhelming majority of residents that spoke voiced their support of increasing the city's millage rate...." Does anyone care to guess how many of those speaking actually pay property tax? It sure is easy to spend other people's money. "Council member Jim Kennedy is in favor of this plan because it gets more people on the tax rolls and is not affected by swings in the economy." The way to get more people on the tax rolls is to increase sales tax. Then everyone who buys anything gets to participate. That is why PSTA is attempting to con the people with a light rail system funded by a sales tax. They know that a light rail from St. Pete to Clearwater doesn't make sense (they could easily do that with a bus following the same route and schedule and prove that there is no demand). But they need more money to pay bus drivers $75,000 a year in salaries and benefits and they are maxed out on property tax assessments. The city is also maxed out on property taxes, so let's have a sales tax and get everyone paying for all the "necessary" benefits that everyone needs. Let's stop catering to the "wealthy crowd on Beach Drive" (who by the way pay a lot of property taxes on their luxurious properties) and get everyone involved. With another 2% or 3% city sales tax, we could do a lot. And the county should not stop with 1% for an imaginary train, they should add another 2% or 3% to "overhaul the pitiful public schools" and provide housing for all the homeless people.
Jack Sprat June 13, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Problem is, we have lots of people wanting more this and more that and not very many willing or able to actually pay for more whatever it is. If taxes go up, people tend to leave because they cannot afford to pay them. Property owners are giving up because of high property taxes and high property insurance. That leads to foreclosures, which lead to declining property values, which lead to....well, hopefully you get the idea. Higher taxes are not always the best long term solution. We spend much more per student in our "pitiful" school system and it is worse than ever. Maybe, just maybe, more money is not the answer. Go to the meeting tonight and whine on with all those who want more but don't want to pay THEIR fair share. We have about 160,000 registerd voters in St. Pete. 4,000 people have weighed in on the "people's" budget review. That is 2.5% of voters. Are those 4,00 people all registered voters? Is it possible that 2.5% is not representative of what the people of St. Pete really want? Whine on and on. Makes for interesting reading.


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