Summer Doldrums Bring Tight Budgets to Belleair Bluffs
Workshop budgeting underway - More news to come on city website
By Bill Lopez
BELLEAIR BLUFFS - Only nine concerned citizens attended Monday's council workshop at city hall. While the workshop was short, several worthy items listed on the single sheet agenda were considered and briefly discussed by all council members.
Mayor Chris Arbutine said pressures on the city budgeting process continue citing declines in some home valuations resulting in reductions in tax revenue. Certain homes have lost value and that lowers tax revenue while city operating costs are generally up. Beach Road improvements, for example, were estimated at $21 million while only $17 million is available for the project. Cuts are being felt in the mass transit budgets as well. Some bus routes have only five riders per trip on average but must remain in service.
To conserve funds, consideration is now given to consolidating elections with the major state and federal elections coming this fall since off-season elections carry major expense for the city and county.
On the revenue side of the ledger, collection of business taxes presents some problems currently according to City Clerk Debra Sullivan. She reported a surprising number of homes are now rental units in the City of Belleair Bluffs. As such they are subject to business taxes. But finding the owners and securing taxes from them for their rental properties has surfaced as a minor problem, she said. Roughly 1000 business are listed on the tax role that are subject to business taxes and 130 of them are residential rental properties. Of these, 12.5 percent have yet to remit business taxes for the last period.
Belleair Bluffs news initiatives
The city has invested heavily in its website and efforts are being considered to make this information easier to access and more effective for everyone. Searches for data on the site will also be more streamlined with guides and references to take readers to the right place. Also the future possibility of subscription e-mail programs was mentioned for consideration and is now under further review but may be less effective as the guides.
Vice Mayor/Councilman David Shimkus indicated the city is very interested in communicating more effectively with the community. Any one wanting complete and timely data on city affairs will be given the opportunity to link to a place on the site that deals with the issue of interest. The prospect of having an email subscription service is still up in the air.
Changes at the Fire Department
After recognition of the fire fighters Faulkner and Ladner for their years of service, it was noted that Patrick Competelli is now the new--and the first-- Fire Chief for the City of Belleair Bluffs. For the past seven years the community has contracted with Largo for fire service and now has its own chief, a position that comes naturally to Competelli who has served in a senior position in the department several years.
As new chief, Competelli enumerated a lengthily list of initiatives and issues including efforts to get all fire fighters to be EMT certified. Now a minimum of one EMT per first truck is required and Chief Competelli said the goal is to have all certified.
Reach Bill Lopez at Blopez@aol.com
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