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Largo officials wrestle with budget-cutting options

City Commissioners got a first look Tuesday at some of the possible cuts coming to next year's budget.

While the proposed reductions are still preliminary, said Largo's Office of Management and Budget manager Amy Davis, they point to the wide-ranging approach city managers are taking in reducing city spending by $3.6 million.

"This is kind of the first discussion. The beginning of a long process. This is our first attempt to share what staff believes are viable reductions," Davis said.

Some of the cuts are simple: eliminating $25 Publix cards as holiday gifts for city employees.

Others are more painful, such as eliminating or reducing positions.

"It's a combination of frozen positions, vacant positions and layoffs," Davis said.

Some positions on the chopping block include a fire inspector, grant writer, summer camp assistant directors, a records management technician and an emergency medical technician.

While some of the proposed cuts were met with limited opposition, commissioners spoke out against cuts in the city's police and fire departments.

"Reducing Squad 41 from two EMTs to one, I have a real problem with that. Government's first responsibility should be public safety," said Commissioner Curtis Holmes.

While several threatened police department positions are vacant, potential cuts there drew criticism from Mayor Patricia Gerard.

"I have a real problem with cutting nine positions out of the police department. That's a huge reduction," Gerard said.

Other departments are pitching increased fundraising to keep programs from being dropped.

Joan Byrne, the city's park director, said the Tutterow Dancers, the city-sponsored dance studio, would commit to raising $5,000 rather than increasing fees and losing its competitive edge with other local studios.

Police Chief Lester Aradi said his department has not been filling vacant officer positions because of the chance the jobs may soon be eliminated.

"It didn't make any sense to hire people, put them through extensive training, then potentially give them pink slips on Oct. 1," Aradi said.

City Manager Mac Craig said cuts to the police and fire departments were included in the proposed reductions because at a meeting last year residents said they wouldn't mind the reductions.

In the coming weeks, more discussions of what cuts will actually become reality will take place.

"This is something that might be a little fluid," said Davis, the city's budget manager.

Largo officials wrestle with budget-cutting options 03/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 8:56pm]
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