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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Planning council: Cuts to budget will be paralyzing



CLEARWATER -- The Pinellas Planning Council -- a key growth management arm -- has agreed to budget cuts for 2010 but not without a warning this week:

The deeper cuts to the agency sought by some county officials will paralyze it. And the council's going to write a letter to the editor to let everyone know.

The proposed budget relies on spending a third of the agency's reserves in 2010 -- a tactic that will only last a few years after that. That's not sustainable, executive director David Healey said.

"It feels very much like the set up to the beginning of the end," said St. Petersburg City Council member Jim Kennedy

Besides passing a smaller budget, members approved a resolution seeking a meeting with county officials setting a longterm path to running the council and other planning agency. And they decided to send a public letter to the Times to state their case for continued existence.

"I don't know if it performs any purpose other than presenting a red flag to the bull," said Jerry Knight, vice mayor of North Reddington Beach.

Next year's council budget would be $1.16 million, about $350,000 less than this year. That's a compromise after County Administrator Bob LaSala recently suggested deeper cuts and eliminating the nine-employee, state-mandated agency's tax funding in 2011. LaSala said it was not a political ploy but meant to optimize taxes and spending.

However, the agency has been in the cross-hairs of some officials, such as Commissioner Susan Latvala, because the county already has its own planning arm -- and the council sometimes crosses commissioners' wishes.

-- David DeCamp, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:59am]


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