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St. Pete City Council tentatively approves 2019 budget

Mayor Rick Kriseman's proposed budget for the next fiscal year is $200 million higher than the previous one.

ST. PETERSBURG – Mayor Rick Kriseman's proposed $717 million budget for next year coasted through its first public hearing Thursday, despite coming in more than $200 million higher than the 2018 budget.

Much of that increase is driven by a one-year payoff of $120 million in debt the city took on to start upgrading its aging water and stormwater systems.

Residents also will see utility rates rise for water, stormwater and sanitation, all which increase between 3.75 and 10.75 percent starting on Oct. 1.

No one spoke during public comment Thursday, and most of the City Council discussion focused on a proposal to eliminate an employee assistance program position at the St. Petersburg Police Department. The city is looking to outsource the job. The program provides confidential counseling and helps officers through personal problems.

For the third year in a row, the city's proposed millage would remain the same at 6.7550. That means the owner of a $150,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $675.

Even though the millage might not change, residents could still see an increase in their property tax bill as a result of higher property values. The budget reflects a 9.56 percent increase in property values citywide, which is projected to generate an additional $10.5 million in revenue for the year.

Similar to years past, all of the 2019 property tax revenue – about $123.4 million – will go toward public safety. The estimated $145.8 million proposed to pay for the Police and Fire Rescue departments accounts for more than half of next year's general fund budget.

A second public hearing on the budget and millage is set for Sept. 20. The City Council will take its final vote following public comment.

Other highlights of Kriseman's budget include:

• $117 million for water resources capital improvement projects.

•  $4.7 million for a new downtown parking facility and new parking meters.

• $675,000 for intervention and prevention programs for at-risk youth.

• $250,000 for various affordable and workforce housing initiatives.