Tuesday, December 12, 2017
News Roundup

St. Petersburg taxpayers only on the hook for $28,000 in RNC expenses, mayor says

ST. PETERSBURG — The $580,000 controversy over expenses from the Republican National Convention might be over.

Taxpayers, Mayor Bill Foster said, are on the hook for $28,000 in police expenses, not the $580,000 detailed in a city document in August. The $580,000 had stoked anger among residents and the City Council.

Foster has insisted for the past two months that a final accounting of RNC expenses would absolve taxpayers of the $580,000. The actual cost, he said, did not exceed estimates.

"The $580,000 was an estimate just to give an early warning," he said.

Foster submitted $1.2 million for convention-related costs to Tampa, which has agreed to reimburse St. Petersburg from a $50 million grant received for convention security. Still, St. Petersburg has not yet received the money from Tampa.

The council members asked no questions about the money, which will be discussed further during a budget "clean up" meeting on Nov. 13.

The council will vote on the clean up during a public hearing on Nov 19.

In the weeks leading up to the RNC welcome party on Aug. 26 at Tropicana Field, Foster repeatedly declared that taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook for security-related expenses.

Foster further pointed out Thursday that residents should consider hundreds of hours in training and the $500,000 in equipment gained by the police department for working the convention.

"The money was spent for the entire year, not the one-day event," he said.

He reiterated that the convention brought tourist revenues and worldwide attention to the city, adding: "It already represents hundreds of thousands of dollars."

In September, Foster disclosed an estimated $5.2 million deficit for fiscal 2012. Part of that, $580,000, was used to prepare, secure and clean up the city before and after convention activities. A city document classified the $580,000 in expenses as "Estimated RNC costs and no revenue."

The controversy erupted in September over the $580,000 when Foster couldn't fully explain the costs for convention functions. In the past seven weeks, several council members and residents have repeatedly lambasted Foster and his top administrators for not releasing the costs.

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