Editor: The Belleair Bluffs Commission is contemplating 10 percent tax on our utilities. They are so anxious to levy it they are considering reversing a longstanding city ordinance requiring a vote of the people before enacting a tax of this type. The city attorney has said that they can reverse the ordinance based on a Florida Law that has been on the books since 1972. Our ordinance was enacted in 1992 and hasn’t been a problem until now.
The commission claims to be good stewards of the city’s money. They say our shortfalls are a result of the economy, or pension settlements beyond their control. The pension settlement was within their control. It could have been settled for about $1 million less.
The economy called for hard choices on spending. Property values had dropped and the city’s revenues were down. They elected to take money out of our reserves to “maintain the level of service.” Good stewardship should include cost control, not just raising taxes.
Spending in Belleair Bluffs is high when compared to unincorporated county and other municipalities. I use unincorporated, not to suggest that Belleair Bluffs become unincorporated, but to establish a base of services. It is up to each person to decide whether the additional services being provided are worth their additional cost. Belleair Bluffs can easily be a financially viable city. The problem is the city spends too much. They are trying to be a large City, to justify larger expenses. The City has to start looking at more efficient alternatives. Being small has benefits, we just don’t take advantage of them. I would much prefer hearing we are providing the same or better services for less.
Belleair Bluffs’ taxes seem high to me, considering what we are getting. Even more so by adding the additional tax. In my opinion, increasing taxes is the last thing they should do. Before that, we need a citizen’s task force to review the operating budget with a fresh look at how we are spending our money. The commissioners don’t seem to want to do it. On the contrary, they have said the city is in “good” financial condition. They just need more money.