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Dunedin city staff told to cut the budget more

City staff proposals to trim half a million dollars from Dunedin's budget next year are a good start, but don't go nearly far enough, city commissioners said Thursday night.

Commissioners told staff it needs to try again and this time take a look at every person, every piece of equipment and every service the city offers for places to cut expenses.

Dunedin is facing a projected deficit of more than $600,000 in next year's budget. And that figure could grow to as much as $2-million during the next five years if the city doesn't cut costs or increase revenue, City Manager John Lawrence has told the commission.

City staff has been trying to cut next year's expected deficit. Department chiefs, who usually are told to keep their expenses to within a 4 percent to 5 percent increase each year, are now being told to "justify your existence," budget director Dan Zantop said.

Commissioners said Thursday that a nip and a tuck in the budget won't do when the city is facing serious revenue problems.

"We need to go right to the foundation of the whole city," said Commissioner John Doglione.

Mayor Manuel Koutsourais told Lawrence he should get out of his office more to see what's happening in the city and get his own ideas of places where cuts can be made.

"You spend less time on the phone, less time visiting with me and the rest of the commissioners and you go out there and find out who can justify their existence," he told Lawrence.

"Well said," Commissioner Mary Bonner added.

But even Lawrence might not be impartial enough to make those kinds of judgments, some commissioners said. They are considering appointing some sort of independent committee to look at how the city operates and suggest ways to trim costs.

"I would welcome the help," Lawrence said.

Commissioners began early working themselves into a budget-cutting frenzy. Before the commission meeting, as they were meeting as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), they approved a plan to redevelop Pioneer Park in downtown but nixed spending $75,000 to do it because of lack of money.

"Cool it. In plain English, cool it," Bonner told CRA director Richard Follett after he presented the plan. She said she couldn't agree to spend any more money on downtown when "I can't even find a trash can downtown."

Other commissioners said they liked the plan, but not now, with the city facing money troubles.

"The concept is there. It's a good concept.

.

.

. It's the wrong time," Doglione said.

But Koutsourais encouraged Follett to keep thinking of ways to improve downtown.

"I don't want you to cool it. I want you to keep bringing ideas to this committee," he said.

In other action, the commission agreed to adopt a resolution encouraging the School Board to include local government in its curriculum.

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