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ST. PETE BEACH — After dealing with bleak news over the COVID-19 pandemic for several months, a ray of hope was given to city commissioners by City Manager Alex Rey, who advised that St. Pete Beach actually ended its fiscal year with a $900,000 revenue surplus.

“It’s good news,” Rey announced at the Nov. 17 meeting. “While we are still finalizing the closing of the fiscal year, when we first got impacted by COVID, we were concerned about loss of revenue and we took some measures to keep control of some of the things on the expenditure side. (Then) as the months went by, we realized that a lot of the revenues were beginning to ramp up. When we close the year it is going to look like the revenue side is actually going to be about one percent above budgeted revenues,” he said.

He credited the change in parking fees and influx of people going to the beach, “because it was one of the few things people could do.”

He said another “interesting phenomenon” was the amount of building permits that were pulled. “People have started reinvesting in their homes,” Rey said. An increase in some commercial projects also boosted revenue.

The added revenue was “was more than we needed to offset the loss in municipal revenue sharing from the state, such as sales tax revenue losses. We ended up with a one percent increase in revenue.”

He said another important factor was a reduction of expenditures planned by staff, with belt-tightening and some projects getting deferred. “As a result of all of this, our surplus is going to be in the neighborhood of $900,000 from year to year,” the city manager told commissioners.

Once the audit process is done and numbers finalized, the commission can determine what to do with the surplus. “There are projects we can accelerate that we have had on the books that need to be done. We will have that discussion with the commission to determine what’s the best way to allocate the money,” he said. “But it’s good news. During one of the most challenging years that the city has had, we ended up with revenue on the surplus side.”

Mayor Al Johnson asked whether there would be “more stress” on the budget next year.

Yes, Rey said, with concern about property tax impacts, while he expected sales tax numbers “getting back up to close-to-normal.”

“So we may not be having any growth from where we were a year and a half ago, but I think it will be much closer to normal,” he said.

He also noted that there is a lot of appetite for development in the city, including by the new owners of the East Corey Avenue property.

Izzo, Pletcher reelected

City Clerk Amber LaRowe told commissioners that the qualifying period for the next municipal election ended Nov. 13 with no one filing to run against incumbent commissioners Doug Izzo, serving District 1, and Melinda Pletcher, serving District 4.

A St. Pete Beach resident since 2013 who has worked on the island since 2009, Izzo currently serves as the city’s vice mayor. He is employed by the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce as its government affairs director.

Originally from Indianapolis, Pletcher moved to St. Pete Beach in 1989. A real estate agent with the Frank T. Hurley agency, she lives in Pass-A-Grille with her husband and two daughters.