Thursday, November 23, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg City Council vets Mayor Kriseman's budget

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ST. PETERSBURG — City Council members said they are getting more comfortable with Mayor Rick Kriseman's proposed 2015 budget after a meeting Thursday to hash out details.

The council insisted on the special meeting a few weeks ago with hopes of not repeating last year's down-to-the-wire and sometimes-contentious budget hearings.

The first public hearing on the $216 million general fund budget is Thursday.

A few things changed since the council got its first look at the budget in July. For one, officials adjusted revenue projections based on higher property values.

A proposed $643,000 cut to police overtime pay was reduced to $243,000 after union complaints.

"I appreciate the fact they listened to our concerns, and although I don't like any cuts to our budget at all, it's an improvement," said Detective Mark Marland, police union president.

The budget now also includes $50,000 for an early childhood training program, $20,000 for a part-time tuition reimbursement program and $50,000 for grant writing consultants.

The council didn't get much more clarity about the $700,000 the mayor has set aside for marketing. Officials have previously said $471,000 is for advertising and campaign development; $46,000 is for new photography supplies; $35,000 is for printing and campaign production; $78,600 is for enhanced TV programming services and equipment; and $67,800 is for events sponsorships and services.

Council member Darden Rice wanted to know more about the biggest chunk, and how much would be used to market the arts.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said those decisions have not been made because the administration is trying to remain flexible and coordinate efforts with the Chamber of Commerce, which is developing a communitywide economic development plan.

"We don't want to get ahead of the findings of the study," Tomalin said.

Council member Steve Kornell said he'd like to see the administration find $50,000 for the Warehouse Arts Enclave, a proposal that aspires to purchase a cluster of six warehouses and office buildings at 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue S to provide affordable artist space.

The Warehouse Arts District Association and its supporters are trying to raise a $350,000 down payment due in November, and funds for renovations. Kornell thinks if the city chips in, more private funds will come.

Council members, somewhat reluctantly, also moved forward with a proposed hike in utility rates to cover increases in usage and spending on big-ticket projects. The plan, which wouldn't take affect until November, would tack on $2.56 to the average resident's utility bill, or a 4.75 percent hike.

Contact Kameel Stanley at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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