Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg faces $2.8 million budget shortfall

ST. PETERSBURG — Six months after raising property taxes to plug a $10 million deficit, the city is again in the hole by nearly $3 million.

City staffers disclosed the shortfall Wednesday during budget negotiations with members of the Florida Public Services Union.

The deficit in fiscal year 2013, which began Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, comes from utility and communication service taxes not meeting revenue projections. The city also shifted more than $1 million from its general fund to reserves in order to meet targeted balances.

"We have problems with budget revenues this year," said Denise Labrie, budget manager.

Rick Smith, the union's chief of staff, replied: "The city has another budget deficit. People are going to be mad."

The shortfall calls into question why Mayor Bill Foster and the City Council didn't raise property taxes even more in September to create a cushion in case revenues didn't meet projections.

At the time, the council approved an increase in the millage to $6.7742 per $1,000 of a property's taxable value, up from $5.9125. Staffers and council members discussed higher rates then, but decided against it.

On Wednesday, Foster said he did not want to burden residents' wallets any more than needed.

Still, he is concerned about the current shortfall and ordered all departments to cut spending by up to 2 percent. Even though departments have money, it doesn't mean they can spend it, Foster added

He stressed that the city can only control spending, not revenue.

"We're taking action," he said. "We're doing line-item reviews. It's my intent to avoid deficit spending."

Council members are worried since the year is half over.

The $2.8 million discussed Wednesday is about $1 million higher than the deficit mentioned in a Budget, Finance & Taxation Committee meeting, Council Chairman Karl Nurse said.

"You have to make adjustments throughout the year," he said. "Are we narrowing the gap or is it widening?"

Council member Charlie Gerdes said Foster must act now to find savings. "Turning the ship around in two or three months is difficult if not possible. I plan to hold Bill's feet to the fire."

During the negotiations Wednesday, Smith asked the city to return step increases to members' paychecks, citing equal pay for equal work. Newer employees, he added, are earning less than longtime workers.

The majority of city workers have not had pay raises in four years. Smith estimated that increases would cost about $120,000 for the next six months.

"People have lost about $1,100 in real income," he said. "That's a crimp in anybody's budget."

The idea died.

"The answer is no," said Chris Guella, labor relations and compensation manager, who estimated the increase at $240,000.

Both sides bickered about the city having millions in reserves in enterprise funds for water, stormwater and sanitation services. Smith urged Guella to move money from the funds to cover the step raises instead of hoarding cash.

Guella countered: "It's good fiscal management."

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Motorcyclist, 24, dead after Lutz crash

LUTZ — A 24-year-old motorcyclist died Sunday after she crashed near Lutz Lake Fern Road and Apian Way, Hillsborough deputies reported.The unnamed woman was trying to pass vehicles in a no-passing zone about 9:15 a.m., according to a Hillsborough Cou...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

Florida mayor resigns after arrest for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits

DAVENPORT, Fla. (AP) — The mayor of a small Florida town arrested for using dead peoples’ disabled parking permits to park at city hall has resigned.The Bradenton Herald reports that Teresa Bradley resigned and was given six-months of probation as pa...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Published: 12/16/17
Updated: 12/17/17

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Published: 12/16/17