The People’s Budget Review is releasing results from its latest survey gathering public input on the proposed ‘fire readiness fee’ and possible property tax increases that await a final vote from City Council later this month.
With 5,930 surveys completed to date, the coalition, which includes the Council of Neighborhoods (CONA), The League of Women Voters, Agenda 2010 & Beyond, NAACP, The Suncoast Sierra Club, The Florida Public Services Union (FPSU), Awake Pinellas, St Pete Polls, and others involved in their communities, has found that an overwhelming majority of residents (77%) support raising revenues to avoid any further cuts to City services. Furthermore, 44% of these residents also support raising additional revenues above the current deficit to help deal with our long-term budget shortfall beyond 2013.
Survey results also show mixed feelings about how best to raise those revenues with 47% in favor of a millage increase, 32% in favor of the ‘fire readiness fee’, and 48% in favor of drawing down on General Fund Reserves. The strongest opposition is laid against the ‘fire readiness fee’ with 52% opposed. Compare that with 41% against using reserve funds and 37% opposed to a millage increase.
“What is most notable from our perspective, is the fact that for the first time in 20 years residents are debating revenues instead of where to cut services,” said Darden Rice, President of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg Area. “We have found that the strongest consensus among residents is that we need to invest in our City. It’s clear that austerity has lost public support and this has been a consistent theme in our survey results throughout this entire initiative.”
With no definitive results demonstrating support for any one particular revenue stream over another, it may be that a combination of revenue sources is the most acceptable option to the public.
“It becomes more difficult to reach consensus when we dive deeper into the details of the budget, as this latest survey was designed to do, especially when certain details are changing by the day and up in the air” said Louis Brown III, political action chair with the St Petersburg Chapter NAACP. “This puts some difficult decisions on the table for City Council, but we see the issue of whether or not to raise revenues and avoid further cuts as thoroughly resolved.”