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Proposed city budget calls for no increase in tax rate
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PINELLAS PARK – A $111.7 million fiscal 2005-06 budget representing a 5 percent increase in general expenditures will be presented to the City Council, but the millage rate will remain the same for the eighth year in a row.

The council will receive the budget on Aug. 9. The millage or tax rate remains at 5.07. A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.

City Manager Michael B. Gustafson, however, said taxpayers will still see a tax hike due to an increase in property values that have skyrocketed in recent years. The tax hike cannot be blamed on city expenditures.

“It has been another year of positive accomplishments and continued growth,” Gustafson said. “We are recommending some cost saving measures to meet financial challenges while maintaining quality service to our citizens.”

The first and second public hearings on the budget will be held Aug. 25 and Sept. 8, respectively.

The Citizens Budget Advisory Committee already approved the proposed budget.

Gustafson said there are no planned employee layoffs, severe cost cutting measures or other major changes to maintain the millage rate.

He said, however, that city officials are looking at vacated positions through attrition to determine if they should be filled.

The budget shows $45.7 million for operating budget expenses. Salaries, benefits and other costs for the city’s 460 full time employees is about $30.1 million.

The second largest expenditure in the general fund is operating costs of $8.2 million, a 4.3 percent increase over last fiscal year.

Internal service costs for maintaining vehicles, streets and other city-owned property is up by 7.2 percent to $4.1 million. Operating supplies is set at $950,846. Miscellaneous costs are $1.3 million.

“This is a lean budget with the taxpayers in mind,” Gustafson said. “Expenses have not increased dramatically and we are maintaining the quality of service.”

The new budget calls for $19.1 million to be spent on capital improvements for such projects as expansion of police headquarters, repairs and renovations to city hall, drainage, street repairs and playground improvement.

A church property was bought two years ago for $3 million for the city hall expansion. The church has been leasing that property for $12,500 monthly while a new building is being constructed.

A tax increase comes because property values increased by 10.7 percent, creating an additional $1.1 million for city coffers.

New construction and property annexation account for $55.8 million, a 2.2 percent increase in total taxable values.

Dan C. Katsiyiannis, budget administrator, said the city redevelopment district has increased by 68.4 percent over the last seven years.

The redevelopment district is considered a city’s blighted area. In the case of Pinellas Park it is the downtown business area that has seen many improvements in recent years..

“It is expected that taxable values will continue to increase at a high rate,” Katsiyiannis said.
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