INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Keeping in mind the goals of a balanced budget, replenishing reserves and attempting to reduce the millage rate, Commissioner Jose Coppen has set forth some ideas on increasing revenue and decreasing expenditures as the City Commission works on putting together its budget for fiscal year 2007.
Coppen says more aggressive collection of impact fees from developers would help. He says fees next year could go beyond what was originally anticipated.
He also thinks that interest payments on existing fund balances (reserves) may be understated.
Coppen continues to push for a Community Redevelopment Agency, that includes tax increment funding.
"Perhaps the most baffling aspect of my experience in the current commission is reluctance to seek a CRA," he says. "This action was recommended more than a year ago when I was chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board."
He points out that such a plan would mean a lot of money to the city that would enable projects improving the city to be financed.
"The window of opportunity for these increased revenues is closing and yet during my six months on the commission all I have gotten in return for pushing this idea is silence from my fellow commissioners," Coppen says.
On cutting expenditures, Coppen wants a line-by-line review of the budget with a sharp knife kept handy for cutting.
Among things he does want to add to the city is a TV channel that would carry commission meetings and other official city news.
This would be virtually at no cost to the city because Brighthouse, if it follows the pattern it laid down in neighboring Belleair Beach would assist in setting up such a program.
In addition to that, Brighthouse already has given Indian Rocks Beach a grant to get a city TV channel started. No one seems to know what has become of that grant that was given a few years back.
"For some reason," Coppen says, "the $6,000 TV equipment grant has been rolled into a $20,000 audio system and the expense of a $50,000 part time broadcast technician."
Coppen maintains that, to get started with a city channel, "A TV camera can initially be set up on a tripod and let it run."
Coppen is critical of a suggestion by Al Grieshaber, the city manager, who has suggested a budget outlay to spend money for digital cameras and laptop computers.
He also opposes the idea of allocating a $10,000 bonus for Grieshaber which has been suggested. Still fresh in Coppen's mind obviously, is Grieshaber's recent (and fruitless) job hunting adventures.
"Given the continuing efforts of the city manager to seek employment elsewhere within weeks of being offered a position with our city, I will oppose any such magnanimity at taxpayers' expense," Coppen says.
The City Commission meets again next Tuesday at 5 p.m. for a budget workshop.
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