Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

New Port Richey windfall will keep pool open, special events coming

NEW PORT RICHEY — It's amazing how far $261,371 can go.

City officials had a long list of painful spending cuts on the table this budget season. As finance director Doug Haag took another spin through the numbers, though, he found extra money in several places. More electric fee revenue than expected. Savings in renegotiated insurance premiums. Additional dollars if the city keeps the higher proposed tax rate.

Along with other items, the savings amounted to $261,371.

During a work session on Thursday evening, the City Council used that windfall to restore funding for some of the most contested items on the chopping block:

Pools. The lap pool at the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, previously proposed for closure from Sept. 4 to May 24, will have enough funding to remain open year-round. The council also reached a consensus to keep the kiddie pool, dive pool and slide pool open for seven months of the year (they would be closed during the winter). Altogether that will cost $28,000.

"Is everyone happy?" a grinning Mayor Bob Consalvo asked the audience, which contained a group of young swimmers who have pleaded with the council in the past to keep the pool open.

Many heads bobbed up and down.

Downtown events. After several impassioned pleas from Chasco Fiesta organizers, the council restored $40,000 for special events. It will mean $10,000 for Greater New Port Richey Main Street events such as Main Street Blast, and $30,000 for Chasco Fiesta.

"We love being here, we want to be here, but we still need your support," Chasco executive director Kristen King told the council before its decision.

The council was at a stalemate last week over special event funding, which Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said was a luxury at a time when the city is contemplating layoffs. But council member Bill Phillips argued Thursday evening that the recognition and economic impact Chasco brings to the city should be maintained.

The funding helps pay for public works, police and other city services that support the special events.

• Debris collection. The council also earmarked $60,000 for a scaled-back version of its debris collection program, which had been slashed from the proposed budget. Officials had been concerned that cutting this program would lead to rampant illegal dumping.

• Rec center jobs. A full-time swim coach and a part-time custodian — both jobs that had been on the proposed layoff list — were restored, at a cost of $50,000.

The city also agreed to negotiate with a local swim team that trains at the facility, the New Port Richey branch of Tampa Bay Aquatics, to allow its use of the pool during winter months.

Team parent Hal Blethroad said the Tampa Bay Aquatics would be willing to pay for heating of the pool during its practices. City Manager John Schneiger also said the team will likely see a fee increase from the current $50-a-month paid by each swimmer.

Blethroad was pleased with the rec center services and positions that were restored Thursday evening.

"It's a step in the right direction," Blethroad told the Times. "But we still need to sit down with the city to talk about what our share will be, because we really need to know as soon as possible."

Where did the $261,371 come from?

New Port Richey has a shrinking tax base, a heavy debt load from redevelopment properties bought during the boom and a projected $17 million shortfall over the next five years. So where did finance officials find the latest windfall?

In a memo to City Council, City Finance Director Doug Haag explained how New Port Richey will see a net increase of $182,772 in revenue, plus a net decrease of $78,599 in expenditures, for the budget year starting Oct. 1.

Changes in revenue include:

• An additional $91,006 in electric franchise fees collected by the city

• An extra $68,000 if the city stays with a higher tax rate ($9.57 in taxes per $1,000 of taxable property)

• An $80,373 grant that will pay for an additional code enforcement officer

Changes in expenditures include:

• Savings of $83,685 from renegotiating health insurance and property liability insurance premiums

• Net reductions of $30,580 from the pool budget to reflect various savings from the summer season

• Savings of $40,000 from postponing resurfacing of the tennis courts

After the city accounted for these and other items, Haag calculated the $261,371 cushion that council members could use to restore some programs previously on the chopping block.

Comments

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding driver on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three people early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montanez...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Up to 1,000 more US troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring

Up to 1,000 more US troops could be headed to Afghanistan this spring

The U.S. Army is readying plans that could increase the total force in Afghanistan by as many as 1,000 U.S. troops this spring beyond the 14,000 already in the country, senior military officials said.Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has not signed off on...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fifth-grader thought she brought gummy candies to school, but they were laced with marijuana

Fifth-grader thought she brought gummy candies to school, but they were laced with marijuana

A 9-year-old student in New Mexico gave fellow students gummies - only to realize later they were not ordinary candies.The candies had apparently been laced with tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the chemical responsible for how marijuana affects the bra...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

The St. Petersburg Women’s March: Here’s what you need to know

ST. PETERSBURG — On Sunday afternoon, people will take part in the Women’s March, part of a series of marches taking place this weekend. Here’s what you need to know:When is the Women’s March?The march begins at noon on Sunday, Jan. 21, and a rally w...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Temperatures should reach the upper 70s on a warm, sunny, mild Sunday, kicking off a mild week in Tampa Bay, forecasters predict. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18

Leonard Pitts Jr.: One year later.

And here we are, one year later.If you are groping for markers by which to measure how profoundly we have been changed since Inauguration Day, here’s one you might want to consider:In January of 1998, reports surfaced of a sexual affair between Presi...
Published: 01/21/18
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Published: 01/20/18
Updated: 01/21/18