Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater could lose another $1.5-million

CLEARWATER — The City Council last month approved a proposed property tax rate increase, but next week some city officials expect the rate to drop and more services to get cut.

Vice Mayor George Cretekos said the council could eliminate another $1.5-million from the city's general fund, which pays for many of Clearwater's day- to-day operations.

Mayor Frank Hibbard agreed, saying he foresees "at least $1.5-million" getting cut. He said he's received scores of e-mails from residents and talked to many who "feel strongly about the need to keep the (tax) rate where it is today."

"I think we'll probably see some additional cuts, but it's just a matter of prioritizing what they'll be," he said.

To guarantee some flexibility, the council in July signed off on City Manager Bill Horne's proposed increase from its current $4.68 per $1,000 in assessed, taxable property to $4.96.

Still, city leaders pointed out that most homesteaded properties would end up paying lower city taxes than they did this year. That's because assessed values are down, thanks to the slumping real estate market and bigger homestead exemptions created by Amendment 1.

For example, in 2007 the owner of a home with a taxable value of $150,000 (the city's average) paid $701 in city taxes.

In November, even with the higher tax rate, that homeowner would pay an estimated $683.

City officials say a home with a taxable value of $300,000 would probably have the same city taxes next year, and that homes worth more would probably pay more.

But council members said they expect to see some cuts at a public meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday in City Hall.

"I think at this point we're going to be doing more than whittling," said council member Paul Gibson. "We're going to have to reduce some services. Voters are telling us to reduce taxes."

Gibson said he is committed to eliminating funding for the Harborview Center, which would need a city subsidy of $270,000-$280,000, according to parks and recreation director Kevin Dunbar.

Cretekos reluctantly agreed: "I think we should just blow it up and get rid of it, but once we do we won't have a place in Clearwater or the mid-county to host an event."

Horne said if the property tax rate is dropped from his proposed level, then library hours and jobs would get cut first.

To keep the current tax rate, the city would have to cut another $2.7-million from next year's general fund, which stands at $123-million, the same as this year.

The current rate is bringing in $50.1-million this year. Even the increase Horne is asking for would bring in only $48.5-million. And if the council sticks with this year's rate, that number will fall to $45.8-million.

The general fund relies heavily on tax money to pay for things such as public safety and parks, and so far the city manager has cut at least $3.2-million from his proposed budget, including the equivalent of more than 11 full-time positions, police and fire department overtime and hours at aquatic centers.

Council member John Doran said he expects more cuts, but Carlen Petersen said she couldn't find any other places to trim, so the meeting "will make for an interesting discussion."

"I think all five of us are in different places, so we'll have to find some kind of compromise," she said.

>>Fast facts

About the budget

The City Council will have a special meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday at City Hall to talk about the budget. It is open to the public and the city has set aside four hours to discuss the budget. Other public hearings are at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 and Sept. 18.

Clearwater could lose another $1.5-million 08/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa court hearing rescheduled for accused neo-Nazi jihadist killer


    TAMPA — Attorneys for Devon Arthurs, the alleged former neo-Nazi turned jihadist accused of shooting to death his two roommates, have asked to reschedule a court hearing that had been set for Wednesday morning.

  2. Parent of struggling DeVry University is changing its name to Adtalem


    Associated Press

    DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — The company that owns one of the nation's largest for-profit college chains is changing its name.

    This 2009 photo shows the entrance to the DeVry University in Miramar, Fla. DeVry Education Group, which owns DeVry University, announced Wednesday that it will now be called Adtalem Global Education. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  3. NATO rolls out the red carpet, buffs its image for Trump


    BRUSSELS — NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance — which Trump once declared obsolete — has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros.

    U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive at Fiumicino's Leonardo Da Vinci International airport, near Rome, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Trump is in Italy for a two day visit, including a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, ahead of his participation in a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday. [Associated Press]
  4. Taiwan becomes first in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage


    TAIPEI, Taiwan — In a first for Asia, Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, punctuating a yearslong campaign by advocates for gay rights in one of the continent's most liberal democracies.

    Same-sex marriage supporters wave rainbow Taiwan flags after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, making the island the first place in Asia to recognize gay unions. [Associated Press]
  5. 'Top Gun' sequel? Tom Cruise says it starts filming soon


    Tom Cruise is once again feeling the need for speed.

    Tom Cruise starred in "Top Gun" in 1986, and said he'll begin work on a sequel within the next year.