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Dunedin tries to keep rainy-day fund filled

Published Sep. 3, 2005

On the heels of rejecting a 7 percent tax rate hike, city commissioners now must decide how to make sure the city keeps enough money in reserve _ its rainy-day pot.

Meanwhile, the city staff continues to look for places to pare the budget.

Based on the current city tax rate of $4.12 for every $1,000 of assessed taxable property value _ which commissioners don't want to raise _ the general fund is expected to have a year-end cash reserve of $1,784,174.

With two major projects looming _ payment of the additional $1.5-million for construction of the Toronto Blue Jays spring training facility and the resurfacing of Palm Boulevard _ officials say the city will end up with a reserve at 8.6 percent of operating expenditures, well below the 15 percent reserve that city policy requires.

At a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, commissioners will discuss a number of choices _ including budget cuts _ that could help come up with the cash.

Those scenarios include:

Transferring $1-million in utility fund money to the general fund and financing both the $900,000 Palm Boulevard resurfacing project and the spring training debt.

Putting the $1-million in utility money in the general fund, paying for the Palm Boulevard work outright and financing the spring training facility debt.

Using the $1-million in utility money to pay the training facility debt outright and financing the Palm Boulevard project.

Paying for both projects outright with the utility money.

"My recommendation would be to utilize scenario 3," wrote City Manager John Lawrence in a memo Monday. "Palm Boulevard would be a tax-exempt project that could be financed at around 4 percent over a 10-year period."

"The financing of the additional spring training project would be a taxable issue at a rate in excess of 7 percent," the memo added.

The Blue Jays and the city originally agreed on $12-million in improvements to Grant Field on Douglas Avenue, mostly using money from public sources.

But then the team and the city agreed the improvements could not be done for less than $13.5-million.

To pay for the additional $1.5-million in baseball facility renovations, the city would receive $250,000 in advanced rent from the Jays, accept a $250,000 loan from the team and hand over naming rights to the stadium.

The city also agreed to put up $500,000, and the two sides would ask the state for a matching $1-million grant.

But because the state already is paying $6-million it pledged for its share of the stadium deal, the state has limited its contribution to Dunedin to $41,000 per month and won't be able to give more for 20 years.

Until then, the city has to find the $1.5-million.

Anticipating raising an additional $405,367 for the general fund, budget director Dan Zantop recommended that commissioners increase the city tax rate from $4.11 to $4.40 for each $1,000 of assessed taxable property value.

That idea was rejected, and commissioners instructed Zantop to cut $400,000 from next year's budget.

"I asked administrators to take a look at their budget," Zantop said. "If there are some areas the departments can scrub down a little bit, that would put us in a better financial situation."

Zantop said he would discuss reports from staffers and commissioners would review the options on keeping an adequate reserve at Friday's meeting at the Dunedin Water Treatment plant at 1401 County Road 1.