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Clearwater releases preliminary budget
Horne: City’s millage rate to remain unchanged for ninth consecutive year
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CLEARWATER – The city of Clearwater has released its preliminary 2017-18 operating and capital improvement budget with $567,033,940 slated for citywide services, an increase of nearly $99 million from last year.

The general fund budget reflects a 2.5 percent increase from last year with expenditures at $134,945,720.

The proposed millage rate will remain unchanged at 5.1550 mills for the ninth year in a row.

“The preliminary budget reflects continued attention to financial responsibility so that benefits from the previous pension reform, as well as property value growth, are allocated responsibly,” wrote City Manager Bill Horne in a document presented to council members. “As the city looks toward the future, we need to continue to be strategic, and carefully weigh citizen expectations against financial impacts, both positive and negative.”

Taxable property values increased more than 8 percent in 2017, from $9.4 billion to $10.2 billion and marks the fifth consecutive year of increased valuations in the city.

According to the budget, the proposed millage rate will generate approximately $48 million for the city’s general fund, an increase of $3.6 million from the previous year.

General fund expenditures by department are as follows:

• Police, $41,389,690
• Fire, $27,143,410
• Parks and recreation, $27,651,460
• Non-departmental, $4,917,640
• Engineering, $7,755,510
• Library, $7,307,220
• Administration, $4,822,300
• Planning and development, $5,678,790
• Public utilities, $270,770
• Finance, $2,478,120
• Economic development, $1,833,130
• Pier 60/Sailing Center, $1,265,420
• Human resources, $1,406,620
• Public communications, $1,025,640

Capital costs are budgeted at $812,560 for the fiscal year, an increase of more than $55,000, 7 percent above last year. Capital expenditures include library book funding at a cost of $700,000 and equipment purchases.

The Capital Improvement Fund budget has been set at $157.7 million and the six-year plan totals almost $544 million.

More than 70 percent of the planned projects, totaling almost $115 million, support the city’s utility operations. Almost $30 million in projects will be allocated to general governmental operations, including fire facility construction, police and fire equipment, street and intersection maintenance and park development and maintenance.

Just over $12 million will be allocated to internal operation projects, which include the replacement of city vehicles and maintenance of telephone, radio and information systems.

Utility and enterprise funds are as follows:

• The Water and Sewer Fund operating budget reflects expenditures of $79,506,520, a 7 percent increase from last year’s budget. Annual revenues are budgeted at $85.5 million.

• Budgeted revenues in the gas department are approximately $49.9 million, with expenditures coming in at a decrease of 4 percent from the current fiscal budget.

• The Solid Waste operating budget reflects expenditures of $27.3 million – an increase of 11 percent.

• Stormwater expenditures are budgeted at $17.9 million, a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s budget.

• The Marine Fund operating budget reflects expenditures of approximately $3.9 million, offset by operating revenues of approximately $4.6 million.

• The operations of the Airpark reflect an expenditure budget of $268,310, an 8 percent increase with operating revenues budgeted at $316,870.

• The Clearwater Harbor Marina Fund operating budget is $651,060, with operating revenues anticipated at $762,290, reflecting a positive cash flow for the new budget year.

• The Parking Fund operating budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 reflects anticipated expenditures of $5.5 million offset by operating revenues of $7.3 million. Expenditures reflect a decrease of 8 percent from the 2016/17 adopted budget.

Total full-time equivalent positions for the fiscal year are reflected at 1,829.6 full-time employees, an increase of 39.3 positions over the amended 2016-2017 budget.

The preliminary budget will be presented to council on July 20 at city hall. The first public hearing to discuss the millage rate and operating and capital budgets is slated for Sept. 7.
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