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Safety Harbor budget cut menu items leave sour taste

SAFETY HARBOR — City Manager Matt Spoor gave Safety Harbor commissioners a menu of cuts to choose from in order to balance next year's budget.

Furloughs and salary reductions for city workers were on the table. So were plans to close the library on Sundays and the Rigsby Center at 3 p.m. Fridays.

"This is merely an exercise for us to sit up here, have banter and ask questions (about) how it may affect staff, how it may affect services, how it may affect anything," Mayor Andy Steingold said during Monday night's meeting. "He's not saying you need to cut it or not."

Since mid July, commissioners have tried to figure out ways to balance the budget without dipping into reserves more than they already have.

They pulled $600,000 out of savings two years ago, then $800,000 last year. When Spoor presented the new budget to commissioners on July 17, he proposed an even bigger take: $1.2 million.

The pattern — seemingly exponential increases — disturbed Steingold.

"We have money in reserves that we probably need to spend down a little bit," he said. "But at the rate we're spending it down, you almost have to pull the brakes and start slowing down."

Commissioners told Spoor they were fine with taking out another $800,000 in reserves, but no more. That meant Spoor had to go back to the drawing board and find $400,000 in potential cuts to make up the difference, which he presented during Monday night's meeting.

No one endorsed furloughs, salary reductions or library closures. But commissioners did exceed their $400,000 target and endorse $665,500 worth of other probable trims.

Among other things, they agreed to reduce funding for the city's street resurfacing program, which will save the city $300,000. They decided to delay fencing the Little League fields and save $70,000. Commissioners even eliminated their $30,000 travel and $25,000 education budgets.

There could be more cuts, but commissioners don't have to render a final decision until Sept. 8, when budget public hearings are scheduled to begin.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Safety Harbor budget cut menu items leave sour taste 08/06/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 6, 2010 8:04pm]
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