OLDSMAR — Residents' last chances to weigh in on the proposed city budget are coming up.
On Wednesday, city leaders will conduct the first of two public hearings on the $26.3 million budget. The final public hearing and vote are scheduled for Sept. 20.
City Manager Bruce Haddock has proposed keeping the property tax rate the same as it was this year. For the 22nd year in a row, the city will have a rate that's the same or lower than the previous year.
The city expects to bring in about $3.8 million in general fund revenue next year — about 5 percent less than this fiscal year, because property values continue to decline. The general fund, which accounts for much of the city's nuts-and-bolts spending, gleans about a third of its revenue from property taxes.
While the property tax rate will remain the same for the fourth consecutive year, some fees will go up. Like last year, residential water and sewer rates will increase by 3 percent on Oct. 1. The increase is planned in connection with a rate study done several years ago, said Al Braithwaite, the city's director of administrative services.
Haddock's proposed budget may also result in the city's first layoff since the economic downturn. He recommended contracting with Pinellas County for building plan reviews and inspections. That decision would cut the city's building codes administrator.
Not all council members are fond of outsourcing. But after much discussion at the Aug. 9 budget workshop, most said they were willing to give Haddock's recommendation a shot. The city could save $30,000 next year by doing so, Haddock said.
Including the proposed layoff, the city plans to cut the equivalent of 2.5 full-time positions from the general fund, which is proposed at about $12.8 million. That's about $223,580 less than this year's revised budget.
But the proposed budget actually adds more than two new full-time jobs. That's because Oldsmar plans to hire five employees for the city's new reverse osmosis water treatment plant.
The city expects to collect about $1 million in Penny for Pinellas sales tax proceeds next year, with about $750,000 committed to the water treatment project.
The proposed capital improvement budget is $2.96 million, about $1.3 million less than this year. Larger projects include about $800,000 in emergency power upgrades at the city's water reclamation facility.
The city also has a few park projects in the pipeline, including the replacement of the Friendship Playground at R.E. Olds Park. Construction on the $125,000 project is expected to begin by next spring.
Lorri Helfand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4155.