City Council Receives Budget Recommendation
By Josh Valone
The proposal for the 2010/2011 budget was unveiled Tuesday afternoon before council members and local residents at City Hall.
City Manager Bill Horne kicked off the meeting by detailing the finer points of the budget, which is set to be $368 million, a $5 million decrease from last year. The proposal did not recommend any layoffs, though it did include cutting full-time employees in several departments by simply not hiring replacements when current employees eventually retire.
Public safety is slated to make up 53% of general expenditures, which naturally put the topic front and center throughout the meeting. Police Chief Holloway was the first to speak after the proposal was reviewed, and the program that allows police officers to take their vehicles home was discussed at length. Holloway explained that temporarily suspending the program would save the department $200,000 because it would not be necessary to purchase new vehicles in the coming fiscal year.
Fire Squad 49 may also be in jeopardy, though no final decision had been made on the matter as of Tuesday. The question of whether or not to cut funding boils down to exactly how much the city wants to save next year. Retaining Squad 49 would require a 3% increase in funding for its department, while cutting it would lower the budget to 5% less than last year.
Kevin Dunbar, Director of Parks and Recreation, was next up. With tightening the budget being a point of emphasis throughout the meeting, Dunbar went over the measures that his department had taken to keep costs down. Summing up the situation as "If it's green, we have to take care of it," he explained that there was very little that could be done to reduce Parks and Recreation spending any further.
Barbara Pickell, Public Library Director, was the last to speak. A plan to close the Clearwater Beach Public Library was only recently scrapped, and she began by expressing gratitude for that decision before going through various expenses. As was the case with Parks and Recreation, there was simply nothing left to cut.
As the meeting was adjourned nothing had yet been finalized, but the city is now one step closer to settling on a budget for 2010/2011. A special budget meeting will be held August 30th for citizens to give their own opinion on how their tax dollars should be spent.
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