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Lower revenue and uneasy populace makes Zephyrhills budget process tricky

ZEPHYRHILLS — The City Council mulled over budget options Monday during a time when tax revenue is decreasing and residents are suffering from a tight economy. Members also approved annexation of a parcel of land near Chancey Road that they hope would build revenue in the future.

In a workshop on the city's next budget, the focus was on shoring up possible shortfalls and improving on a previous draft that was short by $132,000.

To balance the budget, the draft would eliminate two vacant city positions (code inspector and curator at the Zephyrhills Depot Museum) and would not include any new employees or pay raises.

If next year's millage rate is kept the same as last year's, City Manager Steve Spina said, the city would generate almost $446,000 less. The council weighed cutting back on services vs. increasing taxes and fees.

Council member Luis Lopez made it clear that the council was stuck with a tough decision.

"They're going to notice, either way," Lopez said. "And they're going to want our heads on a platter, either way."

Lopez said uncertainties about when the economy would turn around and an uneasy populace made the decision even more difficult.

"People are seeing a trend already, and they're starting to get agitated over reduced services," Lopez said. "They're afraid of that term, 'reduced services.' People are getting pretty tense."

The council has through August to draft the final version of the budget. Public discussions of the budget are tentatively scheduled for September.

The council also approved the annexation of almost 53 acres of land owned by Chancey Partners LLC in hopes the land would bring manufacturing jobs into the city and increase the tax base. The council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to rezone the land to industrial use.

The land in question is north of Chancey Road and east of Sam Pasco Park.

Lower revenue and uneasy populace makes Zephyrhills budget process tricky 07/13/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 13, 2009 9:07pm]
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