Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Safety Harbor commissioners struggle with budget deficit

SAFETY HARBOR — The City Commission met Monday to comb through next year's proposed budget.

It wasn't easy. For more than three hours, commissioners grappled with the possibility of needing $635,000 from reserves to balance the budget.

City Manager Matt Spoor presented a series of proposed cuts to help offset the reliance on savings, but some commissioners weren't comfortable with the cuts.

Spoor pointed out that the commission had three options.

"You either have to raise revenue, draw from reserves or make cuts. The council has to decide which programs they want to cut," Spoor said.

At their previous meeting, commissioners discussed cutting employee health and dental insurance, Fourth of July fireworks and other items. They revisited those possibilities Monday.

"I would love to see the benefit reductions disappear," Commissioner Nancy Besore said.

The changes in health care contributions would save a projected $95,800, while cutting dental insurance would save $53,230, according to the proposed budget.

"I don't have a problem with people partially paying for health insurance, (but) I don't like the idea of paying zero percent for dental," Commissioner Cliff Merz said.

The council opted to leave the insurance costs in the budget until they see firm rates from providers later this year.

They also chose to leave money in the budget for the fireworks but to seek sponsorships to defray costs.

Commissioners revisited another item discussed at the meeting earlier this month: raising property taxes for the first time in more than a decade.

Spoor proposed that the city set the millage at $3.7343 per $1,000 of a property's taxable value, up from the current $3.3808. The proposal is expected to bring in an extra $317,045.

Under the millage increase, a property owner with a home assessed at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $373.43 in city property taxes next year. The same property owner paid $338.08 this year.

Mayor Joe Ayoub, Vice Mayor Nina Bandoni, Commissioner Richard Blake and Merz all supported the increase, while Besore said she hasn't decided.

Florida cities are required to set a maximum property tax rate by Aug. 2. The increase will be certified this week. After that point, the millage can be reduced but not increased.

Residents can ask questions and pose concerns about the proposed budget at two public hearings in September. The council will pass a final budget at the end of that month.

As the meeting closed, commissioners agreed they should remain hopeful that the city's tax base will expand next year, thus bringing in more revenue, but that they should err on the side of caution when factoring speculative revenue into the budget.

"We're at the point … that we either have to cut services, take more from reserves or raise more revenue," Ayoub said. "But we can't just sit up here and say we want more growth. That happens with the environment we create."

Matt McKinney can be reached at or (727) 445-4156. Twitter: @Mmckinne17.

Safety Harbor commissioners struggle with budget deficit 07/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 6:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jones: Stop talking and start building a new Rays stadium

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was good to see Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, talking Rays baseball and the hope for a new stadium somewhere in Tampa Bay.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is popular with the media on a visit to Tropicana Field.
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. What do kids need to stay away from deadly auto theft epidemic?

    Public Safety

    ST. PETERSBURG — More than a dozen black teenagers told U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist on Wednesday that children need stronger mentors and youth programs to steer clear of the auto theft epidemic plaguing Pinellas County.

    Congressman Charlie Crist (center) listens as Shenyah Ruth (right), a junior at Northeast High School, talks during Wednesday's youth roundtable meeting with community leaders and kids. They met to discuss the ongoing car theft epidemic among Pinellas youth and how law enforcement, elected officials, and community organizations can work together to put an end to this dangerous trend. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  5. Bucs talk social issues, protests at team meeting


    TAMPA — Each time Dirk Koetter walks through the door of his office at One Buc Place, he passes by the only jersey framed on his wall.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) wears custom cleats to represent Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) as part of the NFL???‚??„?s "My Cause, My Cleats Campaign" before the start of a football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016.