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Largo commissioners will talk about how to cut almost $3 million from city budget

LARGO — The city has eliminated more than 70 full-time equivalent positions since 2008, as management has tried to trim the budget during an economic downturn without severely limiting services.

They might not be done cutting jobs yet.

City management is meeting this week to discuss ways to cut another $2.8 million from Largo's general fund budget for fiscal 2013, which starts in October.

The staff presented one option to the City Commission last week: A proposal to outsource more grounds maintenance, saving $126,600 but laying off five full-time employees in the process. Seven positions would actually be eliminated, but two of them are already vacant.

Commissioners want more information before making a decision next month. It will be one of several tough choices they'll have over the next few months as the city tries to cut its budget for the sixth straight year.

"The cuts are getting harder and harder," said finance director Kim Adams, one of the staffers involved in this week's budget discussions. The staff expects to present a list of potential cuts to the City Commission at its May 15 meeting.

Commissioners will probably get to decide on the groundskeeping cuts before then, though. Amy Davis, the city's Office of Management and Budget manager, expects to bring more information on the potential outsourcing to the commission at its May 1 meeting.

Buccaneer Landscape Management of Pinellas Park says it can save Largo $126,600 on mowing, edging, weeding and other maintenance on medians, small neighborhood parks and some other city properties. Buccaneer already maintains some medians and parks for Largo as part of a $96,600 annual contract. A new contract would include all city properties except for Largo Central Park and the city's athletic fields.

Davis presented the plan to the commission at last week's work session. Commissioners asked to see more specifics, like a list of city properties Buccaneer already maintains, before making a final decision.

Opinions on the plan are mixed.

Commissioners Harriet Crozier and Gigi Arntzen said they would vote against it, and Robert Murray also expressed reservations.

"I'm not sure it's worth losing the five positions," Murray said.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes expressed tentative approval, pending more information. Mayor Pat Gerard said she had hoped the savings would be more. She hasn't made up her mind yet.

"It's not that easy to find $130,000 anymore," she said.

One of the reasons savings aren't as easy to find anymore: The city's fund balance, which is money carried over in case of an emergency, is at its lowest point in several years.

The balance has dropped from nearly 20 percent of the general fund budget a few years ago to 10 percent last year, or about $3.5 million, said finance director Adams.

The fund balance is often called a "rainy day fund."

"Well, it's been raining the last few years," Adams said.

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

Largo commissioners will talk about how to cut almost $3 million from city budget 04/17/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 5:04pm]

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