Mayor Bill Foster submit 2014 budget recommendations

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With a slight decrease in property taxes, along with the first expected increase in property values since 2008, St. Petersburg might have a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.

Monday, Mayor Bill Foster submitted to the city Council a recommended budget of $211,161,324 for 2014. Initially, the city was looking to make up for a $4 million budgetary shortfall, but an improved economy has somewhat closed the gap. Property value additions make up for a “full” 92 percent of the bump in city revenue.

Foster’s generally positive proposed budget includes a projected 4.21 increase in property values for 2014, which should add nearly $3.1 million in ad valorem revenues over 2013. The budget proposes cutting the millage rate to 6.7700 mills, which is down from the 2013 rate of 6.7742.

According to Foster, the change in the millage rate is key to balancing the city’s budget.

“While this small reduction may seem insignificant, it is important to our residents,” Foster said in a statement. “This slight reduction should be viewed as a down payment toward my commitment to reducing taxes in the future.”

Total projected General Fund revenues for 2014 will be $211,161,324, slightly lower than the adopted 2013 statement of $211,345,118.  Additionally, revenues will be nearly $4.1 million higher than the anticipated 2013 income of just under $207 million.

Wages, salaries and benefits make up 71 percent—or more than $150 million of the city’s overall general revenue. The good news for city workers is that the percentage level of funding for 2014 will stay consistent with levels for 2013.

This means city workers and the St. Pete Police Department will have reason to be fairly confident in 2014; most services will remain the same or have minor growth.

Foster proposed the addition of five police officers and a “modest” wage increase for city workers. Fire department funding will continue to remain at current levels. In addition, money for the arts and social services will remain the same.

The budget seeks to expand health care funding for city employees by 16.5 percent, and the city will continue to develop a health clinic to reduce costs.

To balance the budget, the city will reduce the work force by eliminating one full-time and more than 10 part-time positions. Many of these jobs are already vacant, with the remaining employees affected by the cuts moved to other positions.

You can see the entire proposed city budget for 2014 at the St. Petersburg City website.

The process of adopting the 2014 City Budget now goes to the City Council, who will set tentative millage rates on July 25. There will be two public budget hearings, September 12 and 26. Each public meeting will be at City Council Chamber in City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N., at 6 p.m.

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.