Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg budget forecast predicts $2.3 million shortfall

ST. PETERSBURG — A budget forecast presented to the City Council on Thursday warned that the city could end the fiscal year in September with a $2.3 million deficit.

One big factor, according to budget director Tom Greene, is the falling cost of fuel and the mild winter, which has translated into fewer utility tax collections.

Officials had projected the city would take in about $212.7 million in revenue for fiscal year 2014, but now believe collections will fall $1 million short.

Council members said that they are concerned about the gap and that the city may once again need to dip into reserves.

"I'd like to find ways not to use reserves," council member Charlie Gerdes said. "It's not the amount so much as it's being taken from a bucket that's already hurting."

The budget forecast also warned that the city's reserve funds could end the year about $9.7 million below target.

Greene tried to temper council members' concern.

He cautioned that the report is a snapshot, as projections based on three months are difficult.

"We have not included in this calculation the fact that we're going to have to do some mid-year cleanup," he said. He hopes to make up the gap in the coming months and said projections don't include any salary savings from recent vacancies or leftover funds from closed-out capital projects.

The budget also doesn't include salary savings from people who left after Dec. 31 and other offsets, but does include expenditure increases associated with Mayor Rick Kriseman's new hires, Greene said.

Gerdes said he knows the staff is working on the issue, but wondered if there's a way for council members to get a sense of where things are sooner. "We're already in the second month of the second quarter," he said.

Kriseman plans to roll out a program that will encourage departments to find savings in the next several months.

Interim City Administrator Gary Cornwell said the mayor wants to instill a sense of "friendly competition" among the departments. They would get some sort of incentive or prize for coming in under budget.

"We don't have the specifics of it yet," Cornwell said. "It'd almost be some sort of contest."

Former Mayor Bill Foster had a similar idea, Cornwell said, and set a general 1 percent goal for departments. Kriseman wants to keep it more open-ended, Cornwell said.

Overall, Cornwell said, the budget gap is due more to lower revenues than out-of-control expenses, but city officials did cite an increase in high-cost workers' compensation claims.

"That $2.3 million number looks a little scary, but from our aspect it's a very manageable number," Cornwell said. "We're hopeful it'll be better."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com, (727) 893-8643 or @cornandpotatoes on Twitter.

St. Petersburg budget forecast predicts $2.3 million shortfall 02/13/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014 11:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Forecast: Rain, heat prevails for Tampa Bay through weekend as tropics gear up

    Weather

    The summertime pattern of mid- to late-day showers and scorching temperatures will persist across Tampa Bay on Friday and throughout the weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  2. Is Bucs kicker Nick Folk a significant upgrade over Roberto Aguayo?

    Bucs

    Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter made it clear.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk is entering his 11th NFL season. He spent three seasons with the Cowboys and seven with the Jets. [LOREN ELLIOTT  |  Times]
  3. Florida education news: Student discipline, online learning, solar eclipse glasses and more

    Blogs

    STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Everyone wants their child to behave in school. But sometimes defining what that means causes dissention. That was the case this week at a Pasco County elementary school, which A Pasco County elementary school has adopted a new behavior model that encourages cooperation and responsibility. Some parents are upset that it also seems to support giving in to peer pressure.

  4. Pinellas wants to see impact of tourism bucks spent on big events

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– Pinellas County relies on more than just beaches to attract visitors. County government also spends millions to help sponsor big-name events to draw even more tourists.

    The Pinellas County Tourist Development Council awareded up to $250,000 to help sponsor the 2018 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Zephyrhills begins residential lien forgiveness program

    Local Government

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A new program is under way to forgive liens on certain residential properties in the city to combat blight, encourage improvements to properties and spur home ownership.

    City Manager Steve Spina said after the council’s unanimous vote, the new lien forgiveness program is up and running.