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Seminole's budget a reason for bragging

SEMINOLE — City spending will go down next year under the proposed 2008-09 budget provided to council members this week, but the tax rate will remain the same.

The proposal shows nearly a 7 percent decrease in Seminole's operating budget, taking it from the current $17.9-million to $16.7-million. The total proposed reduction in spending is about $1.2-million.

The city's proposed tax rate of 2.4793 mills is unchanged.

Seminole's budget is a far cry from that of neighboring Pinellas Park, where a first-draft of the coming year's spending plan shows an increase in spending and in the tax rate. That city also plans to dip into its reserves to balance its 2008-09 budget.

Pinellas Park's current budget shows operating expenses of about $49.7-million. The expected operating expenses for the upcoming fiscal year are about $50.8-million. The current tax rate is 4.5478 mills. The proposed 2008-09 tax rate for Pinellas Park is 4.6135 mills.

Seminole's drop in spending comes from the elimination of 14 jobs, which includes firefighters, administrative personnel, a building inspector and a mechanic.

Seven of the jobs were eliminated earlier this year when Seminole officials laid off two firefighters and two administrative employees in the Fire Department and eliminated some unfilled positions. No one will lose a job under these latest cuts, which are mostly vacant positions.

The city will also stop paying for short-term disability for all employees. Employees can keep the benefit if they pay for it themselves.

Left untouched were the library and recreation department, which increased slightly.

Harry Kyne, Seminole's director of administration, said those are already cut back as far as possible.

Any further cuts, he said, would result in shorter opening times, which would hurt residents.

Costs for police services are increasing.

Seminole contracts with the Pinellas County sheriff for protection, and the cost of that contract will increase 5.7 percent — from $1,624,393 to $1,716,810.

Some employees can expect a 2 percent merit increase, and all of them, except City Manager Frank Edmunds, will receive a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.

Here are the totals for all Seminole departments:

• The City Council, city manager, city clerk: $632,610 (current year); $606,353 for 2008-09; 4.2 percent decrease.

• Law enforcement: $1,624,393 to $1,716,810, a 5.7 percent increase.

• Administration: $2,788,218 to $2,717,728, a 2.5 percent decrease.

• Community development/planning: $1,077,122 to $924,826, a 14.1 percent decrease.

• Public works (library, recreation): $1,705,304 to $1,763,276, a 3.4 percent increase.

• Fire: $9,990,947 to $8,919,654, a 10.7 percent decrease.

>>FAST FACTS

Fun budget facts

The City Council has not raised the tax rate in at least 13 years. For seven of those years, the rate was lowered. And it remained the same from the 2001-02 fiscal year through the 2005-06 fiscal year.

. Seminole's tax rate is one of the lowest in the county. Only the beach communities with their expensive properties have a lower rate. Not only are the tax rates of 15 municipalities higher than Seminole's, so is the amount the county charges property owners in the unincorporated area to provide services there (the municipal taxing unit, or MSTU).

. Seminole has very little debt and has set aside funds equal to the amount of the debt.

. Seminole has fewer employees per capita for provided services than comparable Pinellas County communities.

. Seminole does not have a stormwater utility fee. Ten of the mainland local governments and several beach communities charge such a fee.

. Only Kenneth City has a lower electric utility tax than Seminole.

. Seminole has the lowest gas utility tax in the county.

Sources: City of Seminole, Pinellas Planning Council Community Cost Comparison

Seminole's budget a reason for bragging 06/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 6:52pm]

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