LARGO -- The Largo City Commission appeared to favor making up a $1.6 million shortfall by taking money out of the surplus and when it hunkers down tonight to vote on the budget there will not be cuts.
In an hour and a half of wrangling Tuesday night in which the bad feelings between certain members of the commision was palpable, it was clear that the commissioners shied away from cutting city jobs.
One thing is clear, the administration rolled out the propaganda machine after the commission voted, 4-3, August 30 to assess the roll back rate, 4.2578, as the tax millage rather than the planned 4.75 mills.
This set off political warfare in the money hungry administration making the commission -- particularly the four who voted for the tax decrease -- the target.
While the administration made suggested cuts designed to initiate public outcry, it tried to pin the blame on the commission.
Mayor Bob Jackson and Commissioners Mary Black, Andy Guyette and Jean Halvorsen voted for the reduction.
This made the "Stanton gang" -- Commissioners Pat Gerard, Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry -- mad has hornets. In at least one case, it meant that a hobby horse wouldn't be fed.
Predictably, the great outcry from the public came. E-mails were sent out to locations outside of Largo about critical cuts. A public clamor was engineered with letters and e-mails flooding into city hall.
What happened Tuesday night was a philosophy seminar on public taxation and expenditure which, if most of the commissioners present were to be honest, they did not understand.
The brilliant Kim Adams, the city's math maven, put on the dog and pony show. Instead of facing this year's problem occasioned by the commissioner who did not want to take money from taxpayers that the city did not need, there was a lot of talk about the future with every element (revenue, expenditures) shot down by the presenters the moment it was mentioned.
These forecasts cast a foreboding air over the disposition of Gentry who was "worried" about "negatives" in 2009 and 2010, forgetting, obviously, the Micawber principle -- something will turn up. Besides, a city government by law can't have a deficit. Worry about it when the time comes.
Some are concerned about Gentry. As one observer said, "Remember, only six people voted for her." To which another added, "A big mistake."
She was placed on the commission unanimously in 2003 to fill Marty Shelby's seat who had resigned to run for mayor and then later ran unopposed. The unanimous pick that put her on the commission originally came about through the efforts of one commissioner's phone calls to colleagues putting the deal together.
Madame Gentry, quite full of herself, unloaded a couple of lectures during the session. At one point she declared, full of fire, that as to Jackson and Adams she would pick Adams. Jackson later pointed out, quietly and kindly, that her comparison was invidious.
The cuts that were listed did their job over the past two weeks. Lots of Largo folks got upset. The public should understand that these cuts were not suggested by Largo's elected officials, but by the city administration.
Whenever cuts must be made, the administration has typically zeroed in on police and fire expenditures, or things like victim advocacy, police volunteers, and child help programs (among others).
These are the kind of deletions or cutbacks that actually are political in nature, designed to embarrass elected officials.
Some of the cuts suggested by the administration (with savings in parentheses), which many see as "hot button" items --
Eliminate three police officers (($196,800), eliminate two domestic violence interventionist specialists ($138,600), eliminate victim advocate position ($51,100), delete recreation coordinator at McGough park (no classes and holiday camps; park closed two days a week)(($80,000), eliminate parks and recreation outreach program ($219,400), delete six special events programs ($400,000), delete holiday lights ($73,000), delete before and after school child care ($263,100).
As can be clearly seen, these cuts were designed to spark public outcry, while the administration is oblivious to the white elephant Cultural Center that drains away $500,000 a year -- the city's biggest losing proposition.
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