Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton describes a twofold effort for the 2023 budget: address pressing needs on everything from infrastructure to personnel while keeping property taxes low.
With an anticipated $21.2 million in additional revenue over last year, due in part to skyrocketing property values, Burton’s budget puts a special focus on a backlog of repairs for roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure.
In a presentation to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, Burton proposed allocating $18.3 million to tackle transportation infrastructure repairs, which he said would cover about half of the need across the county.
To do that, Burton proposed a 7.6 percent reduction in the property tax rate to $4.73 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable value. But because property values have increased, homeowners will still pay more on their tax bills. The rate that would bring in the same revenue as last year, called the rolled-back rate, would be $4.56 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable value.
“Anytime you prepare a budget, it’s a matter of choices and challenges, and you have to look at the needs,” Burton told the commission. “You’re trying to balance that while meeting your priorities.”
The commission will vote to set the maximum tax rate on Aug. 2 and will hold two public hearings on the budget in September. The fiscal year 2023 budget begins Oct. 1.
The proposed budget includes a variety of investments Burton said are needed to achieve county priorities and maintain services.
The county intends to use $1.3 million in reserve funds to implement its Coordinated Access Model, a system that will streamline mental health resources and track outcomes of users. The budget includes a 3% salary increase on the midpoint of employee pay ranges and a $1,200 increase to each employee’s base salary.
There is funding for two additional park rangers so that an employee is patrolling Weedon Island at all times. About $1.1 million will be spent on salary increases for nursing staff at the jail facility so the positions can remain competitive, Burton said.
The budget also includes $1.9 million in technology upgrades for the clerk of the circuit court and comptroller and Business Technology Services, amid other expenditures.
County Commissioner Dave Eggers asked Burton if the $18.3 million allocation for transportation infrastructure could be achieved through financing instead of from tax revenues, so that residents could be given more relief on their bills. Burton said he will bring back options to the commission for the budget discussions.
Eggers also asked for more information to be provided about the use of the reserve fund, which is at about 24 percent, above the 15 percent minimum.