With an additional $300,000 pulled from reserves, the St. Petersburg 2014 budget and millage rate are set.
The $300,000 coming from reserves, which were not in Mayor Bill Foster’s proposed budget, was approved by city council 5-3. The funds will go toward youth afterschool jobs ($100K), combating homelessness ($20K) and $180,000 council will allocate for certain projects at a later date.
According to council member Charlie Gerdes the budget is, “responsible, deliberate, thoughtful, but I don’t agree with its priorities,”
He said when council held budget visioning sessions those items of interest articulated by council did not seem to find their way into the budget.
Gerdes said that is why he proposed and voted for adding $300,000 to the budget from reserves to fund some of those areas.
Council members Jim Kennedy, Bill Dudley and Leslie Curran voted against adding the $300,000.
Kennedy argued that as the city’s economy is rebounding, now is not the time to pull from reserves, but to put money back into reserves.
Even the discussion of funding specific programs/initiatives Kennedy thought was not suited for the second and final public hearing on the budget.
“It’s important that we develop a plan and a policy relating to those in a workshop setting,” Kennedy said. “ … I think we are going down the wrong road. We have to show some fiscal discipline.”
“I hate getting to this point and pulling out money,” Curran said.
Council will hold a later workshop to decide where allocate the $180,000 approved Thursday. Possibilities include funding main street programs, neighborhood grants and economic development.Also included in the 2014 budget:
- Five new police officers
- Raises for city employees for the first time in five years
- No cuts to community centers, pools, libraries
Foster said he is proud of the budget because it shows the city has weathered the economic collapse and the recession.
The city, he said, is seeing real growth. He said residents, city council and city staff should be commended for helping St. Pete get through the economic mess.