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St. Petersburg council sets millage rate in first budget hearing

Mayor Rick Kriseman talks about the state of the city on Tuesday, two days after Hiurricane Irma passed through the state. [EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
Published Sep. 22, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council set the millage rate and gave initial approval to Mayor Rick Kriseman's $538 million budget at Thursday night's hearing.

The 6-2 vote advances Kriseman's fiscal blueprint to a final hearing Sept. 28 and the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Council members Jim Kennedy and Ed Montanari voted against the measure.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: As St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman unveils latest budget, some residents fear being left behind (June 19, 2017)

Kriseman's election year budget doesn't contain any new big ticket items or major initiatives. The city's property tax rate won't change, remaining the same at 6.7550 mills. That means an owner of a $150,000 house with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $675.

No residents showed up to speak for or against the budget. In past years, union members or council members have lobbied for their interests in hearings that sometimes lasted well into the night.

Not this year. City Council member Karl Nurse asked that $150,000 be transferred from a fund for building new sidewalks to pay for repairing existing sidewalks.

Nurse said he has many crumbling sidewalks in his district, which includes parts of Midtown, Old Southeast, downtown and Old Northeast. He has pushed for the money, which he says will relieve a six-month backlog in sidewalk repair, all year.

Council members were persuaded, voting to make the transfer.

Another year of rising property values brought an additional $9.4 million into city coffers, an increase of 9.42 percent.

Montanari said he didn't like the city's decision to take $7.6 million from reserves to pay for sewer projects. St. Petersburg agreed to spend $326 million fixing its sewer system after last year's massive sewage spills. The city plans to issue bonds soon and will replenish the reserves with the money raised by that bond issue.

"I don't like the fact that we're taking money from reserves and replacing it with borrowed money," Montanari said. "I just want to state that on the record."

Montanari and Kennedy have both endorsed Kriseman's opponent for mayor in the fall election, former Mayor Rick Baker.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said the city was fulfilling its promises and continuing to fund initiatives in youth violence prevention, combating homelessness, infrastructure repairs and equipment replacement. Kriseman did not attend the meeting. He was celebrating Rosh Hoshanah.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago.

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