INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- The Indian Rocks Beach City Commission passed the final millage rate and budget September 23 but not without some hot words being exchanged between the mayor and commissioners.
One commissioner was referred to by Mayor Bob DiNicola, longtime mayor and member of the commission, as a "Johnny come lately."
In another exchange Commissioner Bill Ockunzzi made reference to past "skullduggery like buying land in Pinellas Park in a secret project."
This caught a rejoinder by DiNicola that attempts to buy land a few years ago were done openly with full commission discussion. "I resent that, Bill, that there was some sneaky business in trying to buy such property. It was not skullduggery. It was done openly."
The bottom line contention over the city's financial affairs for 2005 is that the millage rate is too low and that a large enough fund balance is not being established.
The trio of Ockunzzi, and Commissioners Jim Palamara and Jeremiah Carmody managed to get the millage rate cut 10 percent from last year, down to 2.1533. DiNicola and Commissioner R.B. Johnson expressed fears for the city's financial condition under the plan which passed 3-2 last Thursday on its final hearing.
Johnson, a lifelong resident of the city, pointed out that the area is entering another severe storm cycle. He pointed out that his personal observations and studies show that the local Gulf coast has been in a remission for a number of years from severe storms.
Now they are coming back, Johnson said, and the city should have sufficient reserves for emergencies.
As it is, John Coffey, the city manager, says the fund balance at the end of fiscal year 2005 will be close to a million dollars.
DiNicola doubts this and says it is more in the $600,000 range. "Your figures better be right," DiNicola warned Coffey, or there will be big trouble.
Ockunzzi pointed out that even with the slashing of the millage rate that will support the $2,944,849 in expenditures there is still a tax increase. "We will be taking in about $72,000 more this year in ad valorem revenue than we did last year," he said.
Ockunzzi, spearheading the tax cutting that now highlights the triumvirate running the city (he, Palamara and Carmody), said the city is in ideal position to continue its "pay as you go" policy, city departments have definite goals, and that the city is doing fine.
He emphasized that he wanted, as he said the law requires, the city treasurer to supply a financial report at every commission meeting.
"This is required by law," Ockunzzi said, "and it hasn't been done.
When DiNicola started to say something, Ockunzzi said sharply, raising his voice, "Don't interrupt me. This is my time. You wouldn't support me in March when I brought up the financial reports idea. You thought it was a joke."
There is now a clash of philosophies in fiscal policy in Indian Rocks Beach. The triumvirate now has the upper hand.
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