INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Among the officialdom of Pinellas cities there are few - if any - more knowledgeable and astute than Bill Ockunzzi, Indian Rocks Beach's mayor.
Taxes have been on his mind, as they are with just about any elected officials. Ockunzzi chips in frequently with thoughtful views on that political rollercoaster.
Rebuffed recently by the chairman of the County Commission, Ken Welch, in Ockunzzi's plea for the county to help defray some of the city's cost in maintaining the beach which is a mainstay of the county economy, Ockunzzi more recently came up with ideas to help shave the millage rate the County Commission will impose for fiscal year 2007.
First off, in a communication to commission members two weeks ago, Ockunzzi asked that any reduction not be of the "token" variety.
"Take a hard look at programs, efficiency, equity, alternative funding sources; reserves vs. recurring costs; new spending controls," he wrote.
Then he went on to specify some tax dollars.
Here are some of them -
Eliminate the Pinellas Planning Commission, Ockunzzi advocates. He points out that this is one of several agencies that constitute "just layers of unnecessary government doing the same thing some other entity above or below them on the organizational chart. In short," Ockunzzi says, "eliminate the professional middlemen."
While the PPC is a much heralded agency that helps the smaller cities in the county, Ockunzzi says that "Unlike most other municipal elected officials I have no qualms" about the County Commission making the final decisions regarding the Countywide Plan.
Ockunzzi also makes a plea for efficiency. He wants county government to cut down on the number of managers and administrators and calls for a hiring freeze for all vacant positions, unless the commission specifically approves a hire.
"If a position has been vacant for several weeks it is probably not needed," he says.
He also thinks cost benefit should be examined closely. That is should the county provide a service if it is available reasonably from a private source?
And he throws in a plea for the little guy among county employees - "Do not punish your lower level employees by reducing their benefits and raises."
In a swipe at an argument presented by Welch - that Indian Rocks Beach could afford to fund more of what it wants the county to pay for if it hadn't lowered its millage rate - Ockunzzi said, "Do not punish us because we have now lowered our millage rate for the fourth consecutive year! The beach communities make money for the county coffers. The County Commission needs to reinvest in the beaches at the same rate and magnitude it reinvests and assists the larger jurisdictions."
In a the continuation of a long-held position he has pushed, Ockunzzi said, "The proportionately small share of county funds and assistance received by the beach cities is reaching epic proportions. Please do not reduce county expenses by increasing the disproportionate share of county support we now receive."
Ockunzzi also advocates spending controls in his pleas for "substantial and thoughtful tax relief now.
"Propose a charter amendment that requires at least six affirmative votes of commission members to approve any increase in millage that is more than 6 percent above the roll back rate," he says, arguing that "This type of control will require that everybody in county government pay a lot more attention and homage to tax payer dollars. It would help remove the county as the 'low hanging fruit' for every entity that wants money or a subsidy."
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