Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Largo commissioners nix staff's suggestion to cut police positions

LARGO — City staff has spent months combing through the proposed 2013 budget, looking for spots to trim $2.8 million, which they hope will prevent them from needing a big tax hike to deal with falling property values.

They identified 24 full-time equivalent positions that could be cut, and presented their recommendations to the City Commission last week.

After hearing from commissioners, they've got more work to do.

Commissioners told staff to forget about "unfunding" three police officer positions, a type of budget cut that Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert explained is temporary.

"Unfunded or eliminated, the result is the same, there are three less police officers on the street, and I don't like that," Mayor Pat Gerard said at last week's commission meeting.

The three officer positions were part of $483,400 in proposed cuts to the Police Department — more than any other department. Recreation, Parks & Arts was second, with $437,500, but Commissioner Curtis Holmes pointed out that included in those savings was $101,200 in additional revenue from increased rates and ticket prices.

Commissioners also told staff to nix $125 gift cards for all employees, a planned holiday gift in lieu of raises. No city employee has gotten a raise in two years and many have gone three years without a raise. The gift card expenditure totaled $75,000, which several commissioners pointed out could save a few of the jobs on the chopping block.

There are still a few variables that could change how much staff needs to cut in general-fund spending. The Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office will release estimated value changes in June, Schubert said. If values are higher than anticipated, the city won't need to cut as much.

Schubert is also waiting to find out how much employees' health insurance coverage will increase next year. He expects to get a quote in June, he told commissioners.

Commissioner Michael Smith wondered why travel and training expenses for city staff weren't included on the list of potential savings. The city plans to spend about $246,000 in travel and training, only $35,900 of which is required for certain certifications and licenses. Smith suggested cutting $50,000 from the cost of training that isn't required.

City Manager Mac Craig said that would be a bad idea.

"It's needed to keep people here," Craig said. "If we can't do travel and training to improve what they (employees) do, they're not going to stay here."

Gerard agreed that staff should take a second look at those expenses before the next budget discussion. Craig will release his proposed budget in July, and the commission will discuss it several times before voting on it in September. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Commissioner Woody Brown brought a moment of levity to the budget chat when he asked about the $25 Publix gift cards the city usually gives its employees every year. Publix charges Largo full price for the cards. Brown, a chiropractor, asked why the city couldn't shop around for a discount.

"If I was giving 800 $25 gift certificates to my business, I'd cut you a deal," he said, before realizing someone might misinterpret his hypothetical as a suggestion.

"I'm not proposing that … I couldn't handle that," Brown said, as the other commissioners laughed.

"I could use a massage," Gerard said.

Schubert said he'd look into it.

Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
Official: Device explodes on New York City subway platform

Official: Device explodes on New York City subway platform

NEW YORK — A law enforcement official says what is believed to be an explosive device has been set off on Manhattan subway platform.The explosion happened around 7:30 a.m. Monday. Details were still developing.A person was arrested and has non-life-t...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Will misconduct scandals make men wary of women at work?

Will misconduct scandals make men wary of women at work?

NEW YORK — Some women, and men, worry the same climate that’s emboldening women to speak up about sexual misconduct could backfire by making some men wary of female colleagues. Forget private meetings and get-to-know-you dinners. Beware of banter. Th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

Firefighters brace for second week of California wildfires

LOS ANGELES — As Southern California enters its second week engulfed in flames, fire officials anticipate more growth and danger due to continued strong wind gusts, no rain and decades-old dry vegetation. A powerful flare-up on the western edge of th...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Final push for Moore and Jones in Alabama Senate race

Final push for Moore and Jones in Alabama Senate race

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama Democrats see Tuesday’s special Senate election as a chance to renounce a history littered with politicians whose race-baiting, bombast and other baggage have long soiled the state’s reputation beyond its borders. Many Repu...
Updated: 1 hour ago

No injuries as fire destroys St. Petersburg home

ST. PETERSBURG — A fire destroyed a home in St. Petersburg on Sunday afternoon.St. Petersburg fire officials say the fire occurred some time before 3 p.m. at 1225 21st St. S.The homeowner discovered the fire and was able to escape safely, officials s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Forecast: Freeze warning for some Tampa Bay residents, but warmer weather coming

Forecast: Freeze warning for some Tampa Bay residents, but warmer weather coming

Portions of the Tampa Bay area under a freeze warning as this weekend’s cold blast extends into the start of the workweek.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area That wintry feel, however, is coming into an end as conditions beg...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

When the fire chief asked if anyone in the room had fallen before, a few in the gray- and white-haired crowd raised their hands. One woman lost her footing as she was answering the phone. Another saw a palmetto bug, sprayed it with repellent, then s...
Updated: 2 hours ago
PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is using the controversial topic of sanctuary cities to drum up Republican support in his bid for governor.At a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Putnam warned voters that one of his Democratic opponents want...
Published: 12/11/17

Hooper: Yacht StarShip weathers the storm

At the height of the economic downturn, Yacht StarShip owner Troy Manthey said he and his wife, Jill, worried about the company’s survival."We were counting ice cubes," Manthey said.But they made it. The dining cruise business that sails out of the C...
Published: 12/11/17
St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

BY CHARLIE FRAGOTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — It was a big promise made by Mayor Rick Kriseman more than two years ago: Get the Sunshine City to eventually run on 100 percent renewable energy.In a few months, the city will take small but tangibl...
Published: 12/11/17