NEW PORT RICHEY – About 10 city workers are waiting out the final weeks of the budget year with their jobs still on the chopping block.
The employees include three part-time librarians and seven full-time employees from various departments — Finance, Development, Public Works, Parks and Recreation. Unless officials make a last minute move to squeeze them back into the budget, these workers will be out of a job at the end of the month.
"This was as tough a budget season as we have gone through," Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said at a City Council meeting Wednesday evening. "I wish it were better, but it is what it is."
That was little solace for Stephanie Porter-Krahn, a billing and collection administrative assistant in the Finance Department who is slated to lose the job she has worked for nearly five years.
Porter-Krahn, 35, has attended several budget meetings in recent weeks, hoping to save her job. She made several passionate speeches along the way, pointing out her value to the city, where she processes all of the city's business tax receipts, rental permits and parking fines, among other duties.
"I'm frustrated," she said after Wednesday's meeting. "I really sick of all the minutia."
She has a 14-year-old son starting high school. She is actively looking for another job.
The council gave initial approval Wednesday evening to the proposed $44 million budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. That represents an 11.5 percent drop from this past year's budget, with the city continuing to feel the squeeze of plummeting property values, among other shrinking revenues. Moreover, the city is carrying a heavy debt load on redevelopment properties it purchased during the real estate boom but can't unload now.
In June, city officials told 15 workers their jobs might be eliminated as part of the budget cuts. Through workshops this summer, officials restored funding for five positions: a swim coach and custodian at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, a part-time custodian at the Police Department, and two public works positions to keep the city debris collection program alive.
They also set aside enough funding to keep the lap pool open year-round at the rec center and to continue providing some support to popular downtown events like Chasco Fiesta, Main Street Blast and the holiday parade.
The proposed budget includes a sharp increase in the tax rate, from $8.38 in tax per $1,000 in taxable property value to $9.57 in tax per $1,000. That's a 14 percent increase — but property values also fell in New Port Richey by almost as much. As a result, many residents may not see a big increase on their bills, city Finance Director Doug Haag has told the Times.
A final reading of the proposed budget and tax rate will be Sept. 26.