Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Casting for ideas on budget

NEW PORT RICHEY — Close the library every morning? Hook up red-light cameras? Install a cell tower at the rec center?

To save next year's skeletal budget, the city has begun entertaining new and unusual ideas for cuts and new revenue sources beginning later this year. The city has seen an 11 percent decline in property taxes, opening up a $375,000 hole that officials must fill before the $16 million budget is finalized in September.

The good news for residents: Taxes most likely won't go up. After increasing the city's property tax rate last year by 24 percent — the current millage costs homeowners $8.19 for each $1,000 of value — City Council members have said they'll push for anything they can to keep rates from rising, finance director Rick Snyder said.

But that means the city must find money in other, less orthodox ways, some of which were discussed during a special budget session Tuesday.

Among the ideas: installing red-light cameras at city intersections. Police interim Chief Jeff Harrington cited statistics showing that the city, compared to about 100 similarly sized municipalities across the state, ranks among the top in traffic deaths and injuries. If devices are put into place, Harrington said, the city could begin earning $500,000 a year per intersection in fines to red-light violators.

Most council members supported the cameras, saying they would help deter dangerous driving. Mayor Scott McPherson was the sole opposing vote in pursuing the idea, citing some studies that show the cameras produce little change in traffic safety and can even increase crash rates.

"It's a nice carrot. I see it out there," he said. "But I won't support it."

Port Richey became one of the first cities to install the contentious cameras two years ago. Since then, dozens of Florida cities have followed suit. Last week, state officials began officially recognizing the cameras, forcing local governments to pay $83 of every $158 fine to the state.

Council members also seemed swept up with the possibilities of erecting new cell towers, with council member Judy DeBella Thomas calling the idea a "no-brainer." City officials said the 65-foot towers, which would resemble a flagpole, could be built at the city landfill, the water treatment plants, the recreation center or almost anywhere along U.S. 19. If used by three different cell carriers, information systems director Clark Jones said, each tower could bring the city about $60,000 a year.

Like red-light cameras, the towers have generated their own amount of contention. Homeowners in Hillsborough County have staged protests for months against the towers, saying they pose health threats and hurt property values.

Smaller, simpler ideas were also part of the discussion. Council members supported adding a ramp and trailer parking fee for boaters launching from Sims Park, which parks and recreation director Elaine Smith estimated could cost $5 a day.

Council members also supported a $10,000 cut in the yearly funding for Greater New Port Richey Main Street, which has planned and promoted events downtown for about 20 years. Last year the organization lured nearly 100,000 people to five events, including the Cotee River Seafood Festival and Main Street Blast, funded by a city grant of $40,000.

Council members weren't so supportive of cuts to the library. Library director Susan Dillinger said she could save the city about $21,000 by laying off four employees and opening at noon instead of 10 a.m. But the council, pointing to the library's record-high popularity, opted to reserve any possible cuts for a "last resort."

Council members asked for more information on reinstituting a policy that would charge event organizers if city employees like police officers, public works employees or firefighters work overtime. The charge could earn the city nearly $75,000 over the next year, though council member Rob Marlowe worried the extra cost could hurt special events.

City Manager John Schneiger pitched a few other ideas for discussion — charging swimmers a fee to use the pool, moving police dispatchers, even changing the city's internal networking to a cheaper form of "cloud computing" — though details were not discussed Tuesday.

Contact Drew Harwell at dharwell@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6244.

Casting for ideas on budget 07/06/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 12:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Nation

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]
  2. June 26 marks the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series.
  3. Air bag recalls, lawsuits lead Takata to file for bankruptcy

    Autos

    Shattered by recall costs and lawsuits, Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. filed Monday for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., saying it was the only way it could keep on supplying replacements for faulty air bag inflators linked to the deaths of at least 16 people.

    Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. CEO Shigehisa Takada bows during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the U.S., overwhelmed by lawsuits and recall costs related to its production of defective air bag inflators.
[(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi]
  4. Philando Castile family reaches $3 million settlement in death

    Crime

    MINNEAPOLIS — The mother of Philando Castile, a black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last year, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement in his death, according to an announcement Monday by her attorneys and the Minneapolis suburb that employed the officer.

    A handout dashboard camera image of Officer Jeronimo Yanez firing at Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn., July 6, 2016. [Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension via The New York Times]
  5. From the food editor: Almond-Crusted Chicken Tenders

    Cooking

    I decided my almond chicken obsession was becoming a bit much.

    Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.