Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Budget season is upon St. Petersburg again, and a new round of cuts are pondered

ST. PETERSBURG — It has become a depressing annual ritual in this time of recession.

Right about this time of year, city officials start assessing how much revenues are going to decline and how big the deficit will be for next year's budget.

On Thursday, the City Council met with Mayor Bill Foster to consider ways to close a projected $12 million gap in the budget year that won't begin until October.

Foster has previously said he's considering about 30 layoffs across the board. Other cuts will be pondered for a $200 million budget that pays for everything from fire and police to parks and recreation and libraries.

"Everything is on the table," he said. "It's going to be a very challenging budget year."

As it was last year. And the year before that. And on and on.

Council member Herb Polson fretted that the city has already resorted to every available trick to cut expenses without causing pain.

This latest round of cuts will be the severest yet, he said. He proposed the city buy its streetlights — which are owned by Progress Energy.

He figures the city can borrow the money, and recoup the $4.5 million it pays every year in rent to the utility.

But even he said that might be a stretch.

Other proposals he offered might be more doable, like forcing some administrators to retire early and eliminating a number of management jobs. He also wants to look at a major restructuring of the city's pension.

"It's a national problem," Polson said. "We have to do that or we will find ourselves upside down."

Council Chairman Jim Kennedy concurred and had already planned to ask city financial advisers to give a report on the pension system.

"I'd like to avoid as much as possible layoffs," said council member Steve Kornell. "And I don't think anyone who retires after 30 years working with the city should retire into poverty."

More often than not, council members talked about what not to cut.

Bill Dudley called public safety expenses, police and fire, a "sacred cow."

"It's the duty of government to take care of its citizens," Dudley said.

"We shouldn't scrimp."

It's early in the process, and there are numerous workshops to go before Foster proposes a budget in June. Foster said it will be difficult, but not as bad as it could be.

"Last year, people were inconvenienced, but didn't see a loss in programming," Foster said. "Those days are over."

Still, the city had a strong AA bond rating with investors, meaning it's not as heavily in debt as other cities.

By that standard, Foster said, "We're doing pretty darn good."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at [email protected]

Budget season is upon St. Petersburg again, and a new round of cuts are pondered 01/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. general lays out Niger attack details; questions remain (w/video)

    War

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. Special Forces unit ambushed by Islamic militants in Niger didn't call for help until an hour into their first contact with the enemy, the top U.S. general said Monday, as he tried to clear up some of the murky details of the assault that killed four American troops and has triggered a nasty …

    Gen. Joseph Dunford said much is still unclear about the ambush.
  2. Trump awards Medal of Honor to Vietnam-era Army medic (w/video)

    Military

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday turned a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Vietnam-era Army medic who risked his life to help wounded comrades into a mini homework tutorial for the boy and girl who came to watch their grandfather be enshrined "into the history of our nation."

    WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23:  Retired U.S. Army Capt. Gary Rose (L) receives a standing ovation after being awarded the Medal of Honor by U.S. President Donald Trump during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House October 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Rose, 69, is being recognized for risking his life while serving as a medic with the 5th Special Force Group and the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group during ‘Operation Tailwind’ in September 1970. Ignoring his own injuries, Rose helped treat 50 soldiers over four days when his unit joined local fighters to attack North Vietnamese forces in Laos - officially off limits for combat at the time.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 775062921
  3. Long day of diplomacy: Tillerson visits Afghanistan, Iraq

    Military

    BAGHDAD — Far from the Washington murmurs about his future, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to two of America's enduring war zones Monday, prodding leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq to reach out to longtime rivals.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, center, speaks Monday at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, accompanied by Gen. John Nicholson, left, and Special Charge d’Affaires Hugo Llorens.
  4. Head-on crash kills Wesley Chapel teacher and Zephyrhills man

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Two men, including a high school math teacher, were killed Monday in a head-on crash on Morris Bridge Road, deputies said.

    Shackelford
  5. Pinellas sees slight increase in black and first-year teachers

    Blogs

    A year after the Pinellas County school district was chastised in a state report for clustering inexperienced teachers in the state's most struggling schools, the district has reported a first look at its teacher corps.

    The Pinellas County school district has taken a first look at first-year teachers in struggling schools and minority hiring, both of which ticked slightly upward.