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Oldsmar budgets for staff increase

Despite a tight economy, the city of Oldsmar has put together a proposed budget for next year that adds four new employees to the city payroll and boosts spending on traffic control.

City officials are proposing an overall budget of $23.7-million for the 2003-04 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. That's $3-million less than this year's revised budget, assistant city manager Marnie Burns said.

"I think a lot of it has to do with major projects," Burns said. "There are certain funds that go down. When you have projects that cost $1-million or more that are completed, then it's not in the budget."

Council members voted last week to keep the property tax rate for the next fiscal year at 4.65 mills. A mill equals $1 in tax for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property value. At 4.65 mills, someone who owns a home assessed at $125,000 and has a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $465 in city taxes. That does not include taxes levied by Pinellas County, the School Board and other taxing authorities.

But even with the same property tax rate, homeowners will likely pay more in city taxes because of increased property values. In Oldsmar, the total taxable value of property grew by about 9.6 percent last year. That's more than the countywide average.

Some property tax revenues will be used to hire four new employees, said Burns, two in parks, and one each in street maintenance and the Fire Department.

A draft of the budget will be presented to the council on July 15. Then there will be two public hearings at the Sept. 2 and Sept. 16 council meetings.

About $11-million will go for services such as law enforcement, firefighters and parks and recreation. The law enforcement budget is $705,000 and includes paying the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to hire a deputy for traffic control.

What the city pays for water is expected to increase from $1.3-million this year to $1.45-million next year. That's because the city of St. Petersburg is expected to increase what it charges Oldsmar for water by 18 to 22 percent. But Oldsmar also plans to spend $1-million on permitting and final design of its own water supply project.

"That will hopefully provide the city of Oldsmar with its own water supply and reduce dependence on the sources we have now," Burns said.

Another big cost projected for the city this year is insurance.

The city expects to spend about $900,000 on property, liability, life and workers' compensation insurance.

Some of the other spending will go toward making improvements at the Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, resurfacing the streets and providing Forest Lake residents with reclaimed water.

Balancing the budget wasn't easy this year, but the city has seen harder times, Burns said.

"We went through some very lean times in the early '90s," she said. "Our taxable value went down three years in a row. Then it was very difficult to prepare a budget. Comparatively speaking, this is good."

_ Megan Scott can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or