Voters will fill two City Commission seats Tuesday and decide whether to change the way they elect city commissioners in the future.
Three candidates — Vice Mayor Deborah Kynes, City Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski and political newcomer Arnold "Tony" Scruton — are running to fill two City Commission seats.
Voters can cast ballots for two candidates, and the two candidates with the most votes win.
A big priority for the City Commission will be finances and taxation. The city's $63.8-million operating budget is expected to take a hit of $800,000 to $1-million as a result of Amendment 1, a recently passed statewide initiative to give tax relief to property owners.
To cut costs, Scruton, 65, said the city should use more volunteers and look at costs associated with running and replacing city vehicles.
Scruton, who is retired from the horse racing industry and an online retail company that sold auto parts, said he will bring business experience to the City Commission.
Bujalski, 42, who filled the remainder of Bob Hackworth's term when he was elected mayor, has served on the commission for two years. She said Dunedin's recently hired leisure services director must look at fees and facility usage. The city is also looking at contracting facilities maintenance.
Bujalski grew up in Dunedin and said she is a good listener and does her homework.
"I never forget that I work for you," she told voters at one candidates forum. "I am your representative, and it's not about what I want. It's about what you want."
Kynes, 57, who wants a fourth term, said the city may look at consolidating services and reducing staff through attrition. She also stressed the importance of finding innovative sources of revenue, namely an initiative to turn the by-product of wastewater treatment into biofuel. The city applied for a grant in December to pay for the system.
Kynes touts her 24 years of community involvement as an asset that will benefit residents during these turbulent times.
The candidates have talked of the importance of revitalizing areas outside of downtown like Patricia Avenue, which has suffered economically since Nielsen Media Research moved to Oldsmar.
Kynes has raised more than twice as much as her competitors, taking in $20,640 as of Feb. 15. She even reported a $100 contribution from Scruton's wife. Gayl Scruton said she wrote the check in October, before her husband decided to run. Scruton has raised $9,653, and Bujalski has raised $8,580.
Another issue the candidates have discussed is whether to buy J.C. Weaver's waterfront property along Alt. U.S. 19. The city was awarded a matching grant to preserve the land as a passive park.
Both Bujalski and Kynes have said they can't make a decision on whether to buy the land until they have more facts, mainly appraisals.
"As an attorney, I have been trained to make decisions on the facts and the only fact we now know is that the first appraisal came in at $18-million," Kynes said at a candidate's forum. "We know can't afford it."
Scruton said he is not against green space, but with looming budget cuts, he questions whether buying, improving and maintaining the Weaver property is something the city can afford even if the appraisals show new numbers.
"With the ongoing threat of having to cut services and jobs, I think this is something that really needs to be looked at diligently," he said.
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Also on the ballot is a measure which asks voters if the city's charter should be amended to change to a numbered seating system.
If the change goes through, City Commission candidates would run for specific seats.
Both the current system and the proposed system are at-large, meaning all registered voters in the city would vote in all commission races.
Bujalski, Hackworth and Commissioner Dave Eggers voted to put the question to voters. Kynes and Commissioner Julie Scales voted against the ballot question.
Those for changing to a numbered seating system say the system would hold incumbents accountable for their records.
Proponents also say the change could encourage more candidates to run for office since they would potentially be running against one incumbent instead of two, as is the case in this election.
Those against the proposed system argue it could result in more negative and personal attacks since candidates are going after a specific seat, and therefore, a specific incumbent.
Also, the 2006 Charter Review Committee, which recommended keeping the current system, said there was no empirical evidence that a numbered seat system is better than the current one.
Tuesday's ballot also asks voters to make three other changes to clarify the city charter.
Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at (727) 445-4181 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dunedin City Commission candidates
City commissioners serve three-year terms and are paid $8,000 a year.
Family: Husband, Tom; son Thomas, 9.
Occupation: Former economic forecaster for Patchington retail chain, city commissioner.
Community involvement: Liaison to National League of Cities Inclusion Partnership, Small Cities Council and Women in Municipal Government. Past member of the city's Reclaimed Water Citizens Advisory Committee and Emergency Response Team.
Source of income: BMR Holdings LLC, doing business as Patchington, city of Dunedin.
Assets: Home, retirement account.
Web site: None.
Family: Husband, Allen; daughter Lessley, 27; son Jordan, 25.
Occupation: Vice mayor, attorney.
Community involvement: Chairwoman of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, past chairwoman and current board member of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, member of the Dunedin Fine Art Center and Historical Society.
Source of income: City of Dunedin, Sequoyah House Inc., an Oklahoma nursing home
Assets: Home, land in Oklahoma, stocks, bonds.
Web site: www.deborahkynes.com
Arnold "Tony" Scruton, 65
Family: Wife, Gayl; sons Ryan and Mark, and six grandchildren.
Community involvement: Member of Dunedin Historical Society, Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, Council of Organizations, Dunedin Fine Art Center.
Occupation: Retired racehorse trainer, retired owner of SunCoast Bug.
Income: Social Security, trusts.
Assets: Property in Tarpon Springs
Liabilities: Mortgage, car payment.
Web site: None.
For a sample ballot
visit www.voterfocus.com/hosting/pinellas/index.php?id=425 or go to
www.votepinellas.com. Click on "Election Calendar" and then click on
"March 11 Municipal Elections and Fire District Referendum." Click on "Dunedin."