Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater budget deepens the cutting

CLEARWATER — The city's budget freefall began in the dawn of the housing crisis and will continue into next year, whittling deeper into public departments already a shadow of their former size.

Next year's budget, which begins next month, will cut more than two dozen jobs, including firefighters and police dispatchers, and will outsource work like maintenance and landscaping as a way to cut costs.

The first public hearing for the preliminary budget is set for tonight at City Hall. The City Council is expected to approve the budget at a final hearing scheduled for Sept. 29.

There is some consolation that it could have been worse. Early projections doubled the true loss of property values, and the gravest of budget cuts — laying off police officers, shuttering a fire rescue squad, closing a library — were taken off the table.

But the continued sinking of property tax revenue, the biggest source of city funding, remains a weak spot with no end in sight. The city's total property values have dropped by a third in the last five years to $7.6 billion.

Next year's property tax rate will stay at 5.155 mills: just over $5.15 in taxes for every $1,000 of taxable property value. That the rate has not increased since 2009 is good for homeowners but bad for the operating budget, which lost about $2 million.

The $109 million operating budget trims the equivalent of 28 full-time jobs, bringing the work force to about 1,700 employees. Most whose jobs were cut moved to other city positions, said Human Resources Director Joe Roseto. Others retired, left or were laid off.

For all the red ink, next year's budget will see some slight improvements. The North Greenwood branch library was budgeted $35,000 more to pay for longer hours. Police will hire two school crossing guards to meet demand.

The $45 million capital improvement budget, down 15 percent from last year, will mostly pay for utility upgrades, like an arsenic-removal system at a water treatment plant.

The Penny for Pinellas fund, paid by the 1-cent county sales tax, will pay $6.4 million toward the construction of a new fire station on Court Street, fire engines, a beach seawall, traffic calming projects and the renovation of the Countryside Library.

Over the last five years, operating funds have dropped by a tenth. The city has shed 200 jobs.

And almost every department, from finance and planning to libraries and parks, has been asked to work with less. Police and fire crews faced some of the shallowest cuts; economic development and public works, some of the deepest.

It's hard to tell, city leaders said, whether that slide will continue into the year after.

"If it doesn't get any worse, it may not be as difficult," said City Manager Bill Horne. "We don't really know for sure."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or dharwell@sptimes.com.

Clearwater budget deepens the cutting 09/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 8:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Plan your weekend Aug. 18-20: Elvis in concert, Jason Aldean, Monster Jam Triple Threat, Sing-Along Grease

    Events

    Plan your weekend

    The king

    Elvis: Live in Concert: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and Ruth Eckerd Hall will have a Graceland-produced Elvis concert on a movie screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra. Graceland calls it the closest audiences …

    Handout photos of Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  2. Woman convicted in murder of 18-year-old with cerebral palsy gets lighter term

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Linda Bonck, a 90-pound Chamberlain High School senior with cerebral palsy, lived near Tampa's Lowry Park. She struggled to walk and talk but was known for being friendly and trusting of strangers until she vanished one day in 1992.

    Georgia Miller, 39, was convicted for the 1992 murder of Linda Bonck, an 18-year-old Chamberlain High School student who had cerebral palsy. Originally sentenced to life in prison, Miller was resentenced Wednesday to 65 years, the result of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life. With gain time, Miller will be released from prison in the next six years. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  3. Boynton Beach woman arrested on DUI, child abuse charges

    Criminal

    A Boynton Beach woman was arrested Saturday and faces DUI and child abuse charges after she blew a .200 on a breath test with an unbuckled child in the backseat, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

    Brandy Lerma, 31 of Boynton Beach, was arrested on DUI and child abuse charges on Saturday. [Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Editorial: Why can't Hillsborough commissioners move Confederate monument?

    Editorials

    The violence in Charlottesville, Va., crystallized for much of the nation the danger of refusing to address painful symbols of the past. But not so in Hillsborough County, where the County Commission on Wednesday reversed itself yet again and left open the possibility of leaving a Confederate monument outside the …

  5. Former WTSP employee sues station's parent companies for gender discrimination

    Civil

    A former director at WTSP-Ch. 10 has sued the station's parent companies, claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination.