BELLEAIR BEACH -- After being harangued for an hour by a crowd of supplicants -- none of them from Belleair Beach -- who did not want funds for the YMCA cut off, the City Council caved in, nullified a decision by its Finance Committee and agreed to fund the Y for another year.
The $20,000 expenditure represents only one percent or so of the budget which was supposed to be reviewed at the Monday night meeting.
Councilmember Bruce Cutler tellingly pointed out during the endless stream of non-residents who approached the podium and repeated, over and over, the same theme, that "mostly everyone in this crowd doesn't live here, and when this came up before, with mostly Belleair Beach residents here, they were against it."
Cutler is chairman of the Finance Committee that unanimously voted to eliminate the $20,000 gift to the YMCA from the 2005 budget.
It seemed like anyone who had legs had to get up and talk, including, of course, some who can't resist the desire to talk whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Presiding Officer Lynn Rives finally called a halt to it, with even more eager folks willing to voice their views that had already been stated and reiterated many times over.
When it came time to vote, the council, pressed strongly by YMCA interests and Mayor Mike Kelly, who would have egg smeared all over his face if the $20,000 donation ended, gave in. Two members were absent -- Donna Durante and Jeffrey Coulson.
In discussing the matter, council members predicated the giving of the money to the Y on the false premise of how great was city resident participation.
That actually has nothing to do with it. The $20,000 is an outright gift to the YMCA. It buys nothing for city residents. The key consideration is whether it is appropriate to give a donation of taxpayer funds to a private organization.
But emotions overcame any sense or feeling for the proper expenditure of taxpayer funds. The door is now open to churches, Boy and Girl Scouts, or any other private group to hit up Belleair Beach for funds.
Three items were on the agenda for the special meeting Monday night. The first was on the proposed millage rate, which will be at 2.3538, down from the current 2.416 and lower than the 2.6159 that had been forecast in the draft budget for 2005.
The second was on the proposed budget which turned into an hour-long discussion. What was weird and ironic is that all the pressure came from non-residents of Belleair Beach who persuaded the elected representatives of the people of Belleair Beach to spend the money of Belleair Beach taxpayers.
At one point, council members suggested alternative ways to make a contribution to the Y. But it turned out, as Kelly explained it, it was all or nothing at all. The Y depends on funds from Indian Rocks Beach ($60,000) and Indian Shores ($20,000) to provide pay checks for the administrators of the program.
Even Paul Marino, the city attorney, who some observers term the "eighth council member," chimed in with some kind of obscure program the city of St. Petersburg runs.
One Belleair Beach resident said after the meeting, "If the Y people wanted support, why didn't they get our residents here? These are all outsiders we heard from tonight. I feel like we got taken."
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