Pinellas County is facing a $12 million budget shortfall for fiscal year 2014. To close the gap, county officials will explore multiples options, including using reserve money, reductions in spending and increasing the millage rate.
Tuesday, county commissioners will begin to take the first steps to tackle the 2013-14 budget during its budget work session.
According to county documents, the budget gap could be partially closed by using one-time reserve money from the Service Level Stabilization Account. However, using one-time reserves, according to the county, would only help in the short term.
The stabilization account was created from FY10-FY12 by taking reductions in the budget over and above what was necessary to balance the budget. The county said $28.6M was accumulated in the account.
Should the county use reserves for FY14, the county forecasts the budget gap could balloon from $17.7 million in 2015 to $57.5 million of 2023.
While the county said it would continue to seek reductions in expenditures, county documents say cutting more will have a direct impact in services enjoyed by county residents:
“The efforts to find efficiencies and streamline operations will continue to be pursued. Due to reductions over the last five years, general fund costs have been reduced to the point that any further cuts would directly impact the continuation of programs as well as service levels.
Between FY2007 and FY2011, reductions of over $182 million were made in General Fund agencies, and budgeted positions decreased by 1,618 or 25%. An additional $18.3 million in budget reductions were taken in FY2012.”
Closing the budget gap could become more feasible should the county choose to raise the millage rate. The current millage rate if 5.0105 and according to the county, the cap limit for the millage rate is 8.3285.
A millage rate increase appears more likely than an increase in user fees or other revenue generators.
According to the county budget report, “the county does not have a wide range of other revenue options. User fees can be increased but need to be considered in the context of the local marketplace and the effect on economic recovery.”
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