Largo Moves Ahead With Four-Year Terms; Holds Current Millage
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Largo will have a brand new election process if the language okayed at the City Commission meeting Tuesday night for a referendum meets with voter approval in November.
The chief reason behind the move to make all Largo elections in the future occur in even numbered years is to save money.
That is, when the city holds its voting simultaneously with countywide voting, the cost is $6,000 or $22,000.
A stand-alone election, such as was held last November, costs Largo $70,000. And the election last November, which brought Curtis Holmes to office, involved only one race.
In May the commission agreed that a referendum question be prepared that would consider four-year terms for the mayor and commissioners which would bring the elections in line with countywide voting in even-numbered years.
The language of the referendum as approved by the commission Tuesday night is as follows -
"Should the City Charter be amended to increase the terms of office of the Mayor and City Commissioners from 3 years to 4 years commencing with the 2010 election for Seats 5 and 6, commencing with the 2012 election for the Mayor and Seats 3 and 4, and commencing with the 2014 election for Seats 1 and 2, which would eliminate elections where there is no countywide election?"
There would be an election next year, 2011, for Seats 1 and 2, which would be for three-year terms until 2014.
This year, the November election so far has six candidates running for two seats, the most political interest seen in Largo in years where, very often, incumbents run for re-election unopposed.
The commission approved Tuesday night holding the millage rate at the current 4.3113 for fiscal year 2011. Budget discussions on the forthcoming year will be held in August.
Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for Monday, September 13, and Thursday, September 23, both at 6:00 p.m. in the City Council chamber.
Like all taxing units, Largo has seen a drop in property values, which, in turn, has a direct effect on revenue.
Largo's taxable value, which was $4,722,352,663 in 2008 is $3,499,528,011 for 2011, a drop of 25.8 percent. The reductions have been steady in the years from 2008 to 2011.
Last year, the gross taxable value was $3,897,783,107 so the drop to the coming tax year is 10.2 percent.
In the meantime, however, city expenses and outlays remain the same or very often higher, leaving the budget makers with a lot of work to do. For example, the city has on tap a group of projects that total at least $57.7 million with almost all of that money borrowed, to be paid back from Penny for Pinellas funds that have not yet come in.
Pinellas County has forecast a severe drop in "Penny" funds and to some it appears that Largo has over-borrowed with more being owed, perhaps, than will come in. This has many people concerned.
The city administration, however, insists that more than enough money will come from the Penny for Pinellas fund. While the city took in some $61 million in the past 10 years in Penny money, some city officials say the income will be $72 million over the next 10 years, an increase of 17.6 percent while the county maintains that there will be a 12.6 percent fall off in Penny income.
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