ST. PETE BEACH — Even though the city is facing a possible $463,000 budget shortfall next year, city officials may ask voters to approve a bond issue to pay for rehabilitating most of the city's streets.
How much money would be needed is not yet known, but there is little question it would be a lot.
The idea was broached by Commissioner Marvin Shavlan in a prebudget workshop and quickly taken up by other commissioners.
"I like the idea of a bond issue," said Commissioner Bev Garnett, who has been pushing for the city to fix Pass-a-Grille Way. "It definitely needs to be done. Cars coming down the road just bounce up and down."
Garnett said the street needs to be completely re-engineered. Simply repaving the street would not be a permanent fix, she said.
"I would hate to see us go the cheap route and spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars and have to come back in a few years and do it again," Garnett said.
Commissioner Al Halpern started the discussion with a proposal to increase the city's road repaving budget for next year.
Vice Mayor Jim Parent agreed.
"My first priority is preserving what we have. Road paving fits into that," Parent said.
Then Shavlan proposed the bond issue.
"The streets, they all look terrible. If we could get all streets done now, when interest rates are low, everyone could get brand new streets immediately," Shavlan said.
Any repayment of the bonds through a dedicated property tax millage would have to be approved by voters, according to finance director Elaine Edmunds.
The current property tax bill includes an extra 0.796 mills to pay off debt incurred to build the police station. That debt will be paid off in 2012, ending the special tax assessment.
"We could put the bond issue up for a vote," Shavlan said. "If people don't want to do it, they don't have to approve it."
City Manager Mike Bonfield said the city has "a good amount" of streets that need work. Only five or six blocks of streets have had any major work in each of the past several years.
Other items on the commission's budget wish list include generating new revenues from the city's marina and community center, and renovating the city's library.
"The library has not received much attention," Bonfield said. "It is the last remaining major public facility not to have been considered for renovation or permanent expansion."
Shavlan suggested the city look at how libraries will be used in the future.
Bonfield said one major spending decision facing the city is whether to replace the city's two aging fire stations.
"We need to determine whether the costs to maintain current locations for the next 20 plus years is viable," Bonfield said, suggesting the city might want one central station instead of replacing both stations.
"The fire stations are a big, big issue for our whole city," said Garnett. "The people in Pass-a-Grille want to keep their fire station."
The commission, as well as a citizen budget committee, will review Bonfield's proposed budget this summer.
Based on preliminary department requests, that budget will include a 4 percent pay hike for city employees, and no further personnel cuts.
With a slowdown in outstanding lawsuits, legal fees are expected to fall by about $100,000.
Bonfield said he will review department requests before submitting a formal budget to the commission in the summer.
The anticipated revenue shortfall is due to a combination of increased proposed spending and an estimated 6 percent drop in property values, resulting in a $329,000 decrease in property tax revenues.
Property owners currently pay 2.7514 mills in property taxes, including the special debt assessment. Each 10th of a mill generates about $200,000 in revenue for the city.
Edmunds said the administration is not proposing any property tax increase for the upcoming 2011-12 city budget.