PINELLAS PARK – A budget of $106.3 million for the upcoming fiscal year and 2.9 percent increase in the tax rate gained initial approval from the Pinellas Park City Council Sept. 13.
Both measures passed with little public comment from residents.
The tax rate, unanimously approved in its first reading, is set at 5.5862 mills, or about $5.59 for every $1,000 worth in taxable property value. The slight increase was set as the “rollback rate,” designed to compensate for a loss in property value in Pinellas Park without increasing revenue. New construction and annexations were excluded from the calculation.
The overall value of properties within city limits decreased $48.8 million, or 1.9 percent, compared to the prior year.
Last year, the “rollback” tax rate amounted to a 6.3 percent increase.
The total budgeted expenditures for the city of Pinellas Park in the upcoming year is proposed at about $106.3 million, $363,935 less than the current year.
“The level of spending overall for all our various funds – water, general funds, capital improvements – has actually decreased by 0.3 percent, which is good,” said budget administrator Dan Katsiyiannis.
Despite the overall decrease, the general fund in the coming year is proposed to increase by $1.6 million, or 3.2 percent, according to city documentation. That fund – which makes up nearly half of the total city budget and is funded primarily through property taxes – decreased in the last two budget years.
The fiscal year 2013 increase of the general fund is offset by decreases in all but two of the city’s other major funds. In particular, capital improvements projects scheduled for the year are slated to cost $2.2 million less than this year’s projects.
The half of the city’s expenditures in the general fund goes to public safety: $14.1 million for police, $8.4 million for fire and $3.2 million for EMS. Katsiyiannis pointed out that all the city’s property tax revenue could not cover the cost of just those three services, even taking into account about $5.4 million in revenue charged to other entities.
“Property tax revenues are not even sufficient to pay for police, fire and EMS. In fact, it’s short roughly $7 million,” he said. “That $7 million has to be paid for with other revenues in the general fund.”
Property taxes represent 26 percent of the revenue slated for the general and public improvement funds. Another 25 percent of that revenue comes from franchise fees and utility taxes.
The largest capital improvement project slated for the upcoming year is an upgrade to drainage in the Garnett, Disston and Longhill neighborhoods, at a cost of about $1 million. Along with annual street resurfacing, sidewalk improvements and the final public works improvements to the United Cottages neighborhood, the city has planned improvements for two of its parks. Youth Park has $568,000 budgeted toward its upgrade, while improvements at Skyview Recreation Center are estimated to cost $315,000.
Pinellas Park also plans to set aside $400,000 for a walk-in medical clinic for city employees and their families. The clinic is still in the planning stages of development. The ultimate goal is for the city to save money through decreased costs in health care, said City Manager Michael Gustafson. The clinic will provide more preventative care, eventually lower insurance costs, and allow employees to take less time off to go to the doctor, he said.
Water fees increase
The council also gave preliminary approval to increases to water, sewer and stormwater fees. The change is based on the increased cost of wholesale water and sewer purchase rates from Pinellas County and the need for additional funding for stormwater maintenance.
The adjustments vary. By way of example, monthly water rates for customers within the city limits consuming less than 8,000 gallons of water would increase from $6.54 per 1,000 gallons to $6.68. The minimum water bill increased from $19.62 to $20.04.
The comparable sewer rate – per 1,000 gallons of metered potable water within city limits – $8.13 to $8.42. The minimum charge also increased from $24.39 to $25.26.
Storm water rates for residential properties within city limits are now $4 instead of $2. Nonresidential rates are now based on total square footage of the property and range from $6 to $10.
The final hearing on the tax rate, budget and water rate increases is Sept. 27, 7:30 p.m., at City Hall, 5141 78th Ave.
In other action, the council:
• Approved changes to a 432-unit apartment development proposed within the Gateway Centre
• Authorized a drainage agreement for a property slated for a proposed Cheddar’s restaurant on northeast corner of Park Boulevard of 43rd Street
• Approved a 2.5 percent increase to the wage rate of non-union employees
• Noted the emergency repair to a sanitary sewer main at the southwest corner of Bryan Dairy Road and 66th Street, which cost $100,000