Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg residents offer budget ideas to city leaders

ST. PETERSBURG — City leaders sat before the crowd of more than 75 people and listened. The residents marched one at a time to a microphone, each eager to tell the mayor and City Council members how they wanted their tax dollars spent.

Some wanted improved public transportation. Others mentioned curbside recycling. More than a few people spoke of social issues affecting the city.

The meeting, held Wednesday evening at the Willis S. Johns Recreation Center, was the first of three public forums at which residents can suggest to elected leaders how to shape the city's budget.

Mayor Bill Foster is tasked with formulating a budget for the fiscal year that begins in October. The city already faces a $2.8 million budget deficit this year. But before anything is decided, Foster said, he wanted the residents to have their say.

"If I had come to you with my proposed budget without first asking your input, it wouldn't be fair," Foster said. "This is your budget."

Before the meeting, members of the People's Budget Review, a coalition of neighborhood groups, civic organizations and union members, distributed the results of a survey of 500 city residents. The survey asked what people liked about the city and what they'd like to change.

Parks, weather, the waterfront, downtown, the small-town feel, the arts and walkability all ranked among the most liked. Economic and social issues and changes in city government topped a list of wanted changes.

Some speakers cited specific problems with city services. For Vince Cocks, recent reports of "browning out" fire department vehicles were a cause for alarm.

"We … demand adequate and honest fire department funding," Cocks said to applause.

Brownouts, in which emergency units are kept idle for several hours or even a full day, are a controversial tool that local fire stations have used to save money rather than pay for overtime. Talk of deeper budget cuts prompted fears of more brownouts, or possible layoffs, putting certain neighborhoods at risk. Some City Council members were unaware of the practice until recently.

Others spoke on behalf of city employees, who have not seen a pay raise in several years.

"We dig the ditches. We take out the trash," said Dennis Coley, a mechanic with the city's fleet maintenance department. "We're the ones who keep things going."

Two more budget forums are scheduled in the next two months before the City Council meets to adopt a budget in September. The forums will be at 6 p.m. May 15 at the J.W. Cates Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N, and 6 p.m. June 12 at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S.

St. Petersburg residents offer budget ideas to city leaders 04/24/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  3. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.
  4. Review: Arcade Fire open hearts, play with passion at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa


    Gloves off, hearts open and disco balls glittering, Arcade Fire scaled the stage for the first time ever in Tampa, pouncing and flailing and performing with all the passion that’s made them one of the world’s most celebrated rock bands this century.

    Arcade Fire performed at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa on Sept. 22, 2017.
  5. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — The wait felt like forever for Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, having gone 10 months without playing in a game.

    A scramble in front of the Lightning goal has Matthew Peca, far left, and Erik Cernak, middle, helping out goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy during the third period of a 3-1 win against the Predators. Vasilevskiy, who made 29 saves, was “exceptional,” coach Jon Cooper says.