BELLEAIR BEACH -- When Belleair Beach's new city manager takes office next March, one of the first things that man or woman will probably do will be to examine the bucket of suet that poses as the city's budget.
With expenditures currently averaging a 19 percent increase per year over recent years, cutting might be an easier task for a professional than what elected city officials have been able to accomplish.
One place the new manager is sure to look is at the police department which now is soaking up more than half the mills assessed on Belleair Beach residents.
The almost $560,000 police budget is a big load for residents to carry in a town that has nothing but residents and one through street. There are no schools, churches, businesses or activity center or downtown.
Some residents of the town, with a population of about 1,650, get red faced when comparisons are made with Belleair Bluffs, just across the Intracoastal Waterway.
The Bluffs has a lot of businesses, many of them located in two shopping centers, a large grocery chain store and many other businesses along Indian Rocks Road one of the city's two very busy thorougfares.
Belleair Bluffs gets policed yearly for $213,693 less than Belleair Beach. Many residents of Belleair Beach wonder why.
At a per capita cost of $340, Belleair Beach residents are paying the highest price for policing of all jurisdictions in the area. Belleair Bluffs per capita cost for policing is at $157. The difference is 116 percent.
The common plaint from the Belleair Beach City Council is a constant wail for more money. The city has even turned residents into informers against each other to make sure that the yearly fee is paid by property owners who lease their homes.
Most recently, one of the city's sub-committees came up with an idea for a marina on Belle Isle Avenue, because, as one council member said, "we need the money."
Also in city plans is the construction of a new city hall, the cost of which began at a modest $1.5 million, but is now verging on $3 million. The city budget earmarks $110,000 this year for the city hall fund, as well as $100,000 year for the next eight years.
Staring the city in its face is the savings that could be realized by using the Belleair Bluffs way of policing. The sheriff does that job for $346,000.
With much less responsibility in Belleair Beach and fewer people, the sheriff could probably take care of Belleair Beach for something well less than $346,000 -- a possible savings of $250,000 or so for Belleair Beach.
When a new city manager does arrive next March, he will have a duty to point out to taxpayers in Belleair Beach such a savings. And he will probably find other savings as well right inside a city hall that will be obviously overstaffed with the current assistant to the mayor job.
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