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County may ask you to do some chores

CLEARWATER — Utility bills could go up. Fees to enter parks and beaches could be added. And mowing right-of-way near roads could become the job of nearby homeowners instead of Pinellas County.

Officials are debating increasing fees and chores for residents to help balance the 2010 budget.

The County Commission could begin considering the changes in June to close an $85 million shortfall.

County Administrator Robert LaSala did not release details at a public work session Wednesday night, but the board likely would be asked to approve a law requiring the mowing and up to $5 entrance fees to Fort De Soto Park.

Higher permit costs for buildings and development could raise $600,000. That's in addition to a business occupational tax LaSala's aides are debating. That all could come with a decrease in county services, which officials say people would notice.

"The level of frustration in dealing with us will grow," LaSala said.

The county still needs to find $19.4 million in cuts, despite plans that would eliminate 746 jobs. A blanaced budget must be approved in September.

One target for debate: Sheriff Jim Coats offered to spend $32.8 million less next year, culling 265 jobs. But LaSala's staff said the sheriff is $17.7 million short of the requested cut to reach a goal of a 20 percent reduction.

The board itself has met off-camera twice recently to debate a 10 percent cut of $150,000 to its budget, voting to cut members' and staff pay 4 percent.

Commissioner John Morroni said Tuesday that he hasn't talked to anyone who thinks the board should cut aides; Commissioner Susan Latvala dissented.

"How can you look Bob (LaSala) and the rest of the department heads in the face after what they've had to do?" Latvala asked.

LaSala this week pared his office budget by a fifth, cutting four posts, including assistant county administrator Liz Warren's $162,400 a year job.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

County may ask you to do some chores 05/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 21, 2009 12:14am]

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