MADEIRA BEACH — Resident comments and concerns about how their tax dollars are spent by the city will be front and center at a special budget workshop Friday.
The meeting, set to start at 6 p.m. at City Hall, will wrap up the city commission's intense debate over the form and content of a budget that will guide the city's spending during the coming fiscal year.
Mayor Travis Palladeno wants Friday's meeting to be devoted to listening to residents.
"The budget will be a work in progress during the year, especially once we get a new city manager," Palladeno said. "But we are starting with a good solid balanced budget that will accomplish things for the city and the residents that have been ignored for years."
Since July, the commission has spent 11 hours poring over the proposed 2011-2012 budget during four official budget workshops.
One central theme was clearly evident — spend less on city administration and more on infrastructure and programs that directly affect residents.
Today, the commission will meet at 5 p.m. to review the changes it has made so far to the budget as originally proposed in June by Interim City Manager and Fire Chief Bill Mallory.
After Friday's public airing of the budget, the commission will review it a final time at 5 p.m. Tuesday before official votes in September to approve the final budget and millage rate.
As originally proposed, the city's 2011-2012 budget calls for spending nearly $11 million next year, split almost evenly between regular operations reflected in the $5.33-million general fund and specialized expenses in various dedicated funds ranging from $1.325 million in capital projects to $1.1 million for garbage collection to $155,000 for parking meter operations.
Mallory cut the city's general fund, which includes salaries and most operational spending, by 12.11 percent, to help create a pool of money to spend on critical repairs and future projects.
Among the big ticket items in Mallory's budget are $500,000 for street resurfacing, $300,000 for replacement of deteriorating seawalls along city-owned waterfront on the Intracoastal Waterway, $100,000 for City Hall repairs to fix roof and window leaks and upgrade air conditioning systems, and a $195,000 contribution to the city's contingency fund to cover unanticipated projects during the coming year.
The proposed property tax rate remains unchanged at about $1.80 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value. Because property values are expected to drop by 4.6 percent, tax bills for most property owners will be lower even without a decrease in the city's property tax rate.
One of the most far-reaching changes to the structure of the proposed budget is an effort to make each department accountable for the money it receives and the money it spends for items such as vehicle replacement.
The city also will spend more for road and seawall repairs, repairing the public works department building roof and improvements to parks and playground and recreation equipment.
The public works director and human resource director positions were eliminated, with those duties assigned to the city manager and finance director posts, respectively.
The commission also cut its own retirement payments and travel budget and will instead use the money to expand the Fourth of July fireworks and the holiday boat parade.
The city will no longer pay for coffee and doughnuts for City Hall employees and it canceled its subscription to the St. Petersburg Times. Lawn mowing will be done by city employees, not outside contractors.
Looking to the future, the commission wants the city's website to be redesigned to provide easier and greater access to city information by the public and it wants to bring utility billing in-house and create a multiyear budget for refurbishing City Hall.
"We worked real hard on the budget to see where we could cut fat and where we could improve the city's infrastructure," Palladeno said. "Madeira Beach is becoming a younger community with families and needs to be more family-friendly."