Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The St. Pete City Budget Round 2

In what could easily be called a rare show of wisdom the City Council voted down the Fire Fee.

Ill conceived, as an attempt to load budget responsibility on the fire fighters, who by the way did not support the mayor's election bid, and would not have benefitted from this fee, it created yet more unneeded controversy and division in the City. To say nothing of the cost of the "consultant" brought in to give the administration some cover in this debacle.

Council agreed to a millage increase, the right way to go if the City really needs more money, and then started asking some budget questions. The Mayor could not provide any answers simply because he has no clue what is going on in the budget process.

A public records request for the third quarter numbers and year end estimates resulted in the two documents above you can look at for yourself.

The Third Quarter shows a $5.2 million deficit and a yearend surplus of $12.5 but the Year End only reveals a $2.66 million deficit a bit short of the Mayor's $10 Million number.

Council wanted some questions to ask so here are a couple:
1. Where is the other $7.5 Million? The LENS Maybe.
2. Is the bond fee for the LENS financing included in the 2013 Budget?

Council is looking for some recommended budget cuts here are a few:

Eliminate the Assistant Chief of the Administrative Services Bureau ($162,000), eliminate 3 crime analysts (about $200,000), and if the City started moving the Police dispatch to the Sheriff there is several million dollars in recurring savings. We don't know how much because not one City official will ask the Sheriff for a cost estimate.

City Development Administration  
Could likely be eliminated $652,000. What do they really do?

Planning & Economic Development
If you can find $3.2 million dollars worth of value in there send me a note. This is likely where LENS money is buried. A $1 million dollar cut here probably would not affect any citizen.

Public Works Administration/Engineering
With a combined budget of $6.2 Million there has got to be some room here for some house leaning now would be the time. Let's get $750,000 out of this area, and the City will be better off.

Budget and Management
I am still trying to figure out how this department runs a $2.6 Million dollar deficient. Someone help me.

The problem is all of these cuts involve eliminating jobs. The Mayor and his administration have not had the stomach for that, but it needs to be done. Still plenty fat, the staff has got to be cut and City council will have to hold the Mayor responsible.

Council needs to be very specific that cuts in police officers, and fire fighters, that are designed to enflame the public, will not be accepted.

These cuts designed to stir up the public and engender things like this millage increase and are the oldest tactics in the political playbook book. It is way past time to recognize them for what they are - political theater.

Look through the documents above and come up with your own ideas and send them to your District Council person. If you don't want to do that, just copy this and forward it to them.

e-mail Doc at: dr.webb@verizon.net, or send me a Facebook friend Request.

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