BELLEAIR BEACH -- The Belleair Beach City Council met in special budget meetings August 3 and 4 and agreed to eliminate funding for the YMCA, increased parking stickers for the accesses in Belleair Shore threefold, and weighed the idea of having a full time code enforcement officer.
The council was performing the function formerly done by the Finance Committee with the exception that last week's meetings were official council meetings with empowering voting to take action.
The budget workshop, the first under new City Manager Reid Silverboard, attracted little attention, despite its importance. Only the mayor, council members, the city clerk and finance director, Peter Cavalli, Silverboard's assistant, and Chief Ernie Armistead were present. Only the Clearwater Gazette & Beach Views covered the meetings; any other press reports will have been based on hearsay telephone calls.
With City Manager Reid Silverboard presenting his first budget, the council had the opportunity of seeing the manager's methods and philosophy in budget making.
One contretemps with Councilmember Lynn Rives that went overtime concerned the grants received from the state to upgrade Morgan Street park and to build a new tennis court, that will be part of the new city hall construction.
Their discussion, prolonged beyond the point of useful resolution, was over how the money was accounted for. The bottom line is that $100,000 is going to be available for those projects.
Incidentally, the use of the money -- which comes from general state tax funds -- opens both of the facilities to the public in general. That is, anyone who wants to may use Morgan Street and any tennis player in the area who can get to the new courts will be entitled to their use.
The city had been spending almost $20,000 a year as a contribution to the YMCA and councilmembers saw little return or value to city residents.
When the subject came up last year, the council voted against giving the Y public funds (which some observers think is wrong) but a lobbying effort by Indian Rocks Beach residents who packed the city hall caused the council to reverse itself. Thus, the money in the past year was given because of pressure by IRB residents.
A full time code enforcement officer is estimated to cost about $50,000 a year. Mayor Rudy Davis cautioned about other expenses that are looming for the city -- the $3 million loan to build a new city hall, settling the money issue in the sewer dispute with Belleair Shore. Unmentioned was the cost of a lawsuit that, when the bill comes in, may shock council members and residents.
The budget is based on a millage rate of 2.41, unchanged from last year to raise $1,031,439 in ad valorem taxes. The general fund totals $2,505,546, which is 18.2 percent higher than last year's budget of $2,120,492.
A huge increase in property values accounts for the increased amount in money available for taxes. Taxable value of Belleair Beach property (almost all residences) went from $355,032,470 to $420,514,480.
In one interesting sidelight, fines and forfeitures revenue is cut in half, from approximately $80,000 to $40,000. Silverboard said this is because the state has transferred funding for the Circuit Court from the state to the county and the courts are taking a bigger slice out of the ticket money.
Reflecting a state of mind, Councilmember Stan Sofer commented, "It's almost not worth giving out tickets at this rate."
Most communities consider the police department a public safety function, not a revenue producer. Even where police are a cash register function, the convention is not to admit it.
Later, Sofer was licking his chops over the prospect of seeing code enforcement as a money maker. Silverboard cautioned that such enforcement is not supposed to be a money raiser or punitive but has the aim of compliance.
Silverboard is going to work up figures on the code enforcement idea, which Rives does not want under police department jurisdiction, and will report at later budget hearings.
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