Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete council passes budget — but not without debate

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council voted 5-3 Thursday to adopt a new city budget that will grant a slight raise to city employees for the first time in four years

The pay increase — 2 percent is on the table — will apply to all workers in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, officials said.

But a $300,000 expenditure change elsewhere provoked argument.

Council members Jim Kennedy, Bill Dudley and Leslie Curran dissented, disagreeing with a seemingly last-minute decision to amend Mayor Bill Foster's $211 million general fund proposal by allocating an additional $100,000 to the city's after-school internship program, $20,000 to social services and $180,000 to be potentially split among neighborhood and street revitalization projects at a future workshop.

"This should have been brought up earlier," Dudley said, referring to the new expenses during about two hours of debate. "To (increase the funding) now is irresponsible. It's throwing money out there to make you feel good."

Council member Wengay Newton said investing in youth employment and giving teenagers healthy responsibility would help prevent them from getting arrested — and, by extension, save the city money.

"We have arrested 2,185 juveniles," Newton said, citing public records from the past nine months. "The Bible says train up the child. Not lock up the child."

Unlike in recent years, the budget contains no cuts to parks, pools, libraries and recreation centers. It also keeps social services and art programs funded at current levels.

With property values expected to rise 4.2 percent — the first increase since 2008 — another $3.1 million will flow into city coffers, officials said.

Residents could also see a small drop in property taxes.

Millage of $6.7742 per $1,000 of a property's taxable value will also be reduced to $6.7700. A resident owning a house valued for tax purposes at $150,000 and claiming $50,000 in homestead exemptions, for example, will save 42 cents under the new rate.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

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