TREASURE ISLAND — In what promises to be a tough post-pandemic year, Treasure Island’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 provides for sustaining current operation and service levels, while increasing efficiency through automation, and collaborating with other cities to share resources and expertise.

The city’s focus has been on streamlining service delivery in a tough budgetary year, City Manager Amy Davis told commissioners during two days of budget hearings Aug. 4-5. The city’s total proposed budget is $32,447,171, including $17,081,263 for the general fund.

“While there is optimistic outlook on the Florida economy, there is change in the air. There are new challenges that we have not faced to the extent that we are currently, while meeting the expectations for continued service levels,” she advised.

“The proposed budget continues with the focus on infrastructure preservation, becoming resiliency-focused and continuing to work towards the replacement of city facilities,” she told commissioners. “The budget includes resources to support the continued movement toward a Virtual City Hall, using technology to become more efficient and continue to automate manual processes.”

In her city budget address, Davis noted the city’s tax base increased by 5.69 percent, less than the countywide average of 7.09 percent. She said property values throughout area have been increasing, especially in the residential market.

During the upcoming year, streamlining initiatives will include the city outsourcing its payroll and implementing software that accepts registration for recreation programs and facility rentals online. The city will also initiate online building permitting and allow departments to accept online credit card purchases.

“The budget has been prepared with the incremental increases in operation costs, but with an eye towards using resources as efficiently as possible through the use of technology and collaborating with neighboring communities where possible,” Davis said.

In a first for the city, Treasure Island will partner with St. Pete Beach in a 50/50 split in the cost of geographic information system services and parking administration, as part of a mutual exchange for specialized professional services.

Taxes and fees

The 2022 budget proposes the city adopt a property tax rate of 3.8129 mills, .2 mills higher than last year, so the city can amass the additional .5 mills required to fund the Causeway Bridge capital maintenance into the future.

The increase will find the owner of a $300,000 homesteaded property paying a $76 increase in property taxes, while the owner of a $500,000 homesteaded residence will see a $134 increase.

The city plans to raise its parking meter rates at all city lots, except at the Community Center, from $2.75 to $3 an hour to increase revenue. In addition, non-resident boat slip fees will be increased by $275 to $600 a month.

Treasure Island is also planning to implement a 4 percent increase in garbage pickup rates, and a 10 percent increase in both recycling and stormwater fees, along with a 10 percent hike in sewer rates, which includes a 4.7 increase in the sewer volumetric rate.

“We had a wastewater rate study performed last year to provide a five-year plan to incrementally increase sewer rates to support the ongoing capital investments in the collection system and prepare for the larger upcoming capital projects in the next 10 years,” the city manager explained.

“The lift-station rehabilitation program restarted this fiscal year, which involves rehabbing the 10 lift stations throughout the city, plus the master lift station being reconstructed and elevated. The eventual replacement of the subaqueous sewer main will be the largest project that will be necessary in the coming years; however, that project will now be pushed beyond 10 years out due to the assessment of the pipe showing it is in better condition than anticipated,” she noted.

The city of St. Petersburg has not yet provided a preliminary bulk sewer cost increase for next year, so the budget uses a 10 percent increase as the assumption, Davis said.

Continuing to grow the stormwater fund to pay for the significant projects needed also continues to be a challenge, she said. The budget includes an increase to the stormwater fee by 10 percent, which is expected to continue until the fund is self-sufficient and able to pay for the projects required to improve and maintain the stormwater system. “By FY 2023, it is projected that the revenue in the stormwater fund will be sufficient to mostly support the level of improvements needed,” she advised commissioners.

Significant stormwater enhancements that leverage grant funds through the Southwest Florida Water Management District along with curb replacements citywide are the driving factors to increase the revenue in this fund, Davis said.

There is an increase of 4% in the solid waste base fee for residential, multifamily and commercial customers to reflect increases in county charges and to build the fund balance in anticipation of future garbage truck replacements.

City commissioners were also in favor of the city’s police department adding an additional officer to staff the marine patrol boat.

Other news

During the hearings, city commissioners approved budgeting $3,000 a year to assist the Treasure Island Historical Society in its proposed new City Hall Center home, but decided to only fund half of the Treasure Island-Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce’s request of $10,000.

In a close consensus, commissioners decided not to offer grants to St. Petersburg residents living along the Treasure Island Causeway to paint unsightly fences along the city entrance corridor.

Commissioners also voiced approval to extending the city’s popular Sanding Ovations to a second weekend that would take place during Thanksgiving. This fall, that Recreation Department event will include a sand-sculpting competition along with an exhibition.

The Recreation Department was also given approval to fund a consultant study to determine the viability of renovating the golf course at Treasure Bay. Meanwhile, the budget reflects the anticipated American Rescue Plan Act funds, state and federal legislation requests and other grant projects to include living seawalls, kayak launch, walking trails and pavilions at Treasure Bay and stormwater grants from Southwest Water Management District to total just under $10.1 million.