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Rick Kriseman wants to use new revenue for rec center, more police

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Shore Acres Recreation Center could finally be replaced with a better, state-of-the-art facility under a plan emailed to City Council members last week by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

In a memo, Kriseman proposed setting aside $6.149 million for a new facility.

“We are still developing the plans for this new facility and the final amount that will be needed is yet to be determined, but assigning $6.149 million to this important project is a very good start,” Kriseman wrote.

Council members Bill Dudley and Steve Kornell have long called for the aging facility to be torn down.

Kriseman’s latest spending plan stems from projected increases in revenue recently brought to his attention. The increased revenue would come from revisions to Electric Utility Tax, Electric Franchise Fee, Communication Services Tax, State Shared Revenue, State Shared Sales Tax and the County Fuel Tax.

Those increases would mean an extra $2,045,000 in revenue. There is also $435,000 shored up due to the pending Pier demolition that means the city will no longer have to provide a subsidy for the shuttered property.

And Penny for Pinellas Round Three funds are also expected to rise about $7 million between this year and fiscal year 2020.

Other project Kriseman proposed include a more than $1 million downtown deployment team that would include 12 new police positions.

“At present, officers are pulled from other district assignments to serve temporarily in the downtown area, based upon scheduled availability of personnel,” Kriseman wrote. “In these instances, there are hours in which the districts have fewer patrol officers immediately available than is desirable to meet response and proactive patrol requirements.”

Kriseman also recommends spending $635,000 on a median maintenance crew. The investment would provide two teams of four workers who would do work exclusively on medians throughout the city.

Another $250,000 is recommended each for a fire cadet program similar to the police cadet program and investment into the city’s “Innovation District.” That includes employers like the University of South Florida St. Pete, All Children’s Hospital, Bayfront Health, the U.S. Geological Survey, the USF College of Marine Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Kriseman also proposes putting nearly $75,000 into the General Fund contingency fund.

The Shore Acres Rec Center money would come from anticipated Penny proceeds and would leave $860,000 of that money for other projects. Kriseman proposed using $760,000 for 19 additional police cruisers, four of which would be used for the downtown deployment team.

The remaining $100,000, under Kriseman’s plan, would be used to repair the boardwalk about Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

“The boardwalk system has degraded to a point that it is closed and presents a safety hazard,” Kriseman wrote in his memo.

During budget discussions with council members at a meeting last month some council members debated whether the budget should include a slight decrease in property taxes for residents. Ultimately the board voted to maintain the current millage rate of 6.77 after being urged to wait for a more substantive cut in the future.

The additional revenue flowing into the city could revive talks of narrowly cutting the millage rate. However Kriseman issued his same advice in his memo.

“Because we are still striving to return to the pre-recession level of service we provide to our residents, and because I believe that a meaningful millage rate reduction may be in order in the future should the economy continue to improve, I do not recommend a symbolic reduction in the millage at this time,” Kriseman wrote.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]

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