St. Pete residents have one final opportunity to speak out re: next year’s budget

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St. Petersburg residents have one final opportunity to share thoughts and ideas on the proposed $460.8 million FY12 city budget during a public hearing Thursday, September 8, at City Hall.

City Council is scheduled to give tentative approval to the tax rate and proposed budget during the 6 p.m. hearing. The public is invited to attend the hearing at City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N. The hearing will also be carried live on StPeteTV, Channel 35, and at www.stpete.org.

For the fifth straight year, St. Petersburg residents will see their property taxes decline. City officials anticipate FY12 property tax revenue to be $34 million less than in 2007 and believe much of this revenue base will never be restored even as property values recover and the economy improves.

The budget proposal includes $13 million in cuts, consisting of an employee wage freeze; a hiring freeze; elimination of 41 full-time positions, including mid-year FY11 staffing reductions that resulted in a savings of more than $250,000 and are anticipated to save the city $2.7 million in FY12; adoption of self-funded health insurance coverage with a projected annual savings of $1.2 million; reduced pension costs for police and fire; reductions in operating hours for some city facilities; and increases in user fees where appropriate, including recreation activity card fees, greens fees, and permit fees. City officials were able to shift displaced employees to vacant positions within the city, avoiding a significant number of layoffs.

City Council is expected to give formal approval to the FY12 budget, millage rate and Capital Improvement Program (CIP) during a second public hearing at 6 p.m., Thursday, September 22, at City Hall.  Public comment will also be allowed at the September 22 budget hearing.

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.