Belleair Beach Council Struggling to Overcome Shortfall in New Budget
by Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BEACH - The City Council opened its "battle of the budget shortfall" last Wednesday night and the city staff will bring results of its study to a meeting later this month on a not yet announced date.
The struggle is to lower the cost of operations and keep the current 1.98 millage rate.
Taxable value of property in Belleair Beach is down 15.4 percent from last year, a circumstance plaguing just about every municipality in Florida.
Last year, the value was $474,436,130; this year, the appraiser's office puts the value at $401,380,192.
With a desire to keep the 1.98 millage rate and looking at the proposed budget, there is a $343,295 shortfall.
Council members worked Wednesday night like demons to cut into and reduce the gap. Three courses of action seemed indicated - 1. Raise the millage rate; 2. Cut expenditures; 3. Put in place a combination of those two.
A nagging concern is that the situation will get worse in the future. As an indication of that, insurance costs - are up 15 to 16 percent over last year. The new city hall will be more costly for insurance coverage.
The School Board is boosting its tax that could add $80 to $100 for a property owner in Belleair Beach.
And Pinellas Suncoast Fire & Rescue is expecting a $70 a year increase in its fee.
One thing the council cut was some $130,000 in planned outlays for the audio-visual set up in the new city hall. The building will be equipped with basic microphones and speakers, but other equipment, like that used for presentations, will be deferred.
Expenditures for some furniture in the new building will be delayed.
Not acted upon, but being looked at is a cut in some car allowances, no pay increases for city employees, a reduction from the 100 percent now paid for medical insurance premiums for employees and dependents.
The budget for fiscal year 2009-10 which begins October 1 is down from the current budget and the figure now given in the working stage is $2,313,136.
But total revenue from all sources amounts to $1,969,841, accounting for the shortfall of almost 15 percent.
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