Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater council votes to maintain tax rate for fifth straight year

CLEARWATER — The City Council held a budget hearing Tuesday and no one came.

That was unusual, said City Manager Bill Horne, even considering that the city's 5.115 millage rate is staying the same for the fifth straight year and the only significant budget change is hiring two police officers to bolster the department's presence on bustling Clearwater Beach.

The council unanimously approved the millage in the first of two required votes and advanced the proposed $115 million general fund budget.

The final budget hearing is set for Sept. 19.

The budget process is proceeding so smoothly this year because hardly anything has changed from last year's financial bottom line. The city will fill a gap between revenues and expenses by using $1.4 million from reserves, leaving $17.9 million in the rainy-day fund.

In other council business:

• The council approved spending $870,000 for the Stevenson Creek dredging project to bring the city's share of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to about $4.1 million since 1999.

The corps has fired two contractors, and settlement costs and other overruns have stalled the project, which is about 20 percent complete.

Dredging will start again at the end of the month and take six to nine months to complete.

• The council authorized city attorney Pam Akin to hire outside counsel for a lawsuit seeking to cancel a referendum on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's proposal to lease city-owned property for a new aquarium.

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has offered to pay up to $30,000 of legal fees associated with the suit, Mayor George Cretekos said, because the aquarium feels that the outlay is part of the referendum's cost.

The aquarium has agreed to pay for the Nov. 5 referendum.

• The city will pay $155,000 to settle a June 2012 lawsuit filed by 159 former and current firefighters over overtime pay.

At issue was the city practice of excluding holiday hours worked in calculating overtime pay.

Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago.

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