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City gets warning about spending

Unless the city finds ways to raise more money or cut spending again, it may come up short $1.1-million next year, officials said Tuesday.

During a budget forecasting session, City Manager Michael Wright told commissioners that the city has enough money in its capital improvements budget, the account for construction and projects.

But the city's operating accounts are another story. "It's the money we use to pay our bills and our payrolls that we're close on," he said.

The city is expected to be about $250,000 ahead by the end of this year, Wright said. City departments have cut spending, eliminated jobs and increased fees to get that surplus.

But costs are expected to outstrip savings and revenue for 1992-93, putting the city $1.1-million in the hole unless officials find ways to cut spending or raise more money.

Currently, the owner of an $80,000 home pays about $281 in city property taxes. If the city raised only its property tax rate to make up the $1.1-million deficit, that owner would pay about $295.

"I'm not recommending that," Wright said.

What he will propose, he said, is to cut spending even further and raise fees, especially for non-residents who use city services.

This is the second budget forecasting session that Wright has held. The forecast is based on staff estimates of how much revenue will come in and how much the city will spend.

It's possible that the city will collect more money or spend less than the staff is predicting, he said Tuesday. But he believes officials should monitor the budget now rather than wait until this summer to try to make up shortfalls.

"We'll start making adjustments now," he said.

Clearwater's current tax rate is 5.1158 mills. To make up an expected $1.1-million shortfall next year without reducing spending or raising other fees, the city would have to increase the tax rate to 5.36 mills. A mill is equal to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed, taxable property value. To determine what your city taxes would be, take the assessed value of your house and subtract the $25,000 homestead exemption, if you qualify. Then divide that number by 1,000 and multiply by the millage rate.