Mayor Bill Foster on next year’s city budget

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The following is from St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.

This week, my staff at City Hall began preparation of the Fiscal Year 2013 city budget. Like last year, we are facing another predicatable shortfall – somewhere around $10 million – which will be determined later this spring as we get official numbers from the county property tax appraiser and other sources. There are a few points that I would like our citizens to consider as we move through the difficult budget preparation process:

  • St. Petersburg has not raised its tax rates in more than 20 years. Each year, the city has either reduced tax rates or left them at the same level. As a matter of comparison, in 1990, the cit’s millage was 8.5731, compared to this year’s rate of 5.9125.
  • As we head into next year, we are operating with ad valorem revenues that are at the same level that they were in 2003. As those of you who manage a household budget understand, the costs of doing business today are nowhere near the levels they were 10  years ago.
  • While all cities in this economy today struggle to balance their budgets, we share two common constrictions, particularly here in Florida – the continuing slump in the housing market that has resulted in increasingly lower property tax revenue, combined with what I consider a very destructive mood among state legislators to reduce funding sources for local governments. This is short-sighted. It’s at the city level where families live, raise and educate their children, work and build new businesses.

As we have in previous years, we will get through next year’s budget process. I’ve challenged staff to continue to be creative to find cost-effective and efficient methods to deliver city services, and would invite you, our citizens, to do the same. Throughout the spring, we will be hosting public forums. Mark these dates in your calendars – April 25, May 16 and June 13, all at 6 p.m. and each at a different location to be announced.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.