LARGO -- Once the Largo City Commission barely signed on to a one mill tax increase last Thursday night on a 4-3 vote, it seemed any discussion of the budget would be moot, but Commissioner Pat Burke then began an intra-commission campaign to restore items to the budget that had been cut.
From there, the commission discussion deteriorated into an exercise of deja vu -- it sounded like the reiteration of ground that had been covered in several agonizing meetings to discuss the 2005 budget.
There was agony because, with the exception of two commission members, the one mill increase -- up 26.7 percent from last year; 39.7 percent over the past two years -- is very unpalatable to Mayor Bob Jackson and two of his colleagues.
Those two, Patricia Gerard and Charlie Harper, voted with him against the 4.75 mill assessment. Commissioners Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry went along with it, reluctantly, and Burke and Jean Halvorsen happily joined them to carry the day.
Surprisingly, when the vote came on the budget -- that had some previously deleted items added back in -- it was only Jackson and Crozier who voted no, although Harper and Gerard had expressed reservations on the add-ons.
And it was Crozier who, in the discussions, laid down her future stance on tax increases -- she will never again approve one, she said. That seemed to be the sentiment of others, too.
Kudos need to go to Steve Stanton, the city manager, for patience. After the grueling exercise of putting together a budget, defending it, then making some requested changes (cuts), and having reached the final stages of the whole thing, Stanton had to hear pleas for putting stuff back in which means more ledgerdemain.
As it is, the city is borrowing from itself in 2005 to fulfill expenditures. In the general fund, $56,502,600 is listed as 2005 outlays. Revenue is $54,967,200. The $1,535,400 shortfall comes from the fund balance, or savings.
The same pattern is seen throughout other categories, with expenditures being partly funded by savings.
While the millage rate is going up for taxpayers to support the 2005 budget, the city has a general increase in revenue through the increasd valuation of property.
That taxable value went up by $315,920,808 or 11.1 percent. How would you like to run your household on an automatic raise like that, and then get an extra 26.6 percent in income from your employer?
The income from that increase in taxable value alone is in the order of more than $300,000.
With the budget season over and settled, many still ask the question -- where does all that money go?
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