BELLEAIR BEACH – The city had welcome financial news this year, following concerns over how to pay for a number of capital projects.
City Manager Lynn Rives announced at the Nov. 4 City Council meeting that in the just-ended fiscal year “we had revenues that covered our expenses, plus a surplus.” Rives said $307,000 that had been taken from a reserve fund to pay for road improvement and flood control projects would be going back into the reserves.
“We borrowed from the piggybank, and we paid it back,” he said.
Rives said the city “ended up spending 86 percent of our budget, a 14 percent reduction.”
“We had a very successful year,” he said. “I give kudos to the city staff for the work they’ve done.”
“That’s real good news, an excellent, incredible job,” Mayor Joseph Manzo told Rives after hearing the budget report.
Manzo has spoken often of his concerns with the city taking $400,000 out of a reserve fund this past year to help pay for the capital projects.
Just last month, Manzo had announced the formation of a wide-ranging resident Financial Advisory Committee. One of their major tasks, he said then, would be to look at the challenges faced by the city in paying for the road and stormwater projects “that are causing a $400,000 deficit.”
“The council is making great strides in continuing with capital programs to fix your streets and stop the flooding,” he said last month. “But if we don’t get the revenue stream, the money will run out in about two or three years. If we need to get $400,000 on a $2 million budget, we’re looking at a significant tax increase.”
The news that over three-fourths of that $400,000 will be paid back caused Manzo to say, “That just bought us another year, and that is an outstanding job.”
Vice Mayor Glenn Gunn, the council’s “go-to” person on financial matters, was also pleased with the news. “Declare victory and let’s go home!” he said with a laugh.
Committee to eye options for property
The city Planning Board will be taking on an assignment to look at alternative uses for city properties.
Their “research project,” Manzo said, will be “to take a look at each and every property owned by the city. That includes the parks, recreation areas, City Hall and most importantly, the City Marina.” The committee will look at deeds and land use requirements and restrictions “and tell us what the potential uses are.”
The mayor emphasized that this was prompted by discussions in council work sessions, saying, “The council is asking for information. The citizens must make any decisions regarding the sale of property or changes of use on property.”
Most of the parks will likely have restrictions that prohibit any type of development, Manzo said. But properties such as City Hall and the marina may have options. He mentioned a “big tract of land outside the marina” that he said is currently an eyesore.
Manzo has in the past brought up the idea of possibly replacing the current City Hall with a smaller structure on the marina property.
He told Planning Board Chairman Jim Imfeld the committee’s task is not to determine the best use or make recommendations for the city properties. “Just do the research and tell us what are the options,” Manzo said.
Gunn said, “There may be better ways of using those properties to develop revenue streams for the city.” Manzo has also said the city needs additional sources of income to finance capital projects the city is doing.
Trunk or Treat ‘well received’
Halloween was the theme of the city’s second community event this year, a follow up to the Fall Festival by the Sea. Trunk or Treat, held Oct. 26, featured a creative costume parade for kids. About 40 to 45 children participated and “we got great feedback,” said event organizer and Parks and Recreation Board Chairperson June VanScoyoc.
“The parents told us this was something many of them had never done before, and they would like to do more of this type of activity,” VanScoyoc said.
Council Member Robyn Ache said she was there with her kids. “They had a great time,” she said.
Manzo also said the event was a success. “The children in the parade were adorable and everyone had a smile. I was thanked ‘for another event that helps turn our city into a community,’” the mayor said.
Coming up next on the city’s event calendar is a Children’s Holiday Party, at 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 7. Santa will be there, and a professional photographer will take “Pictures with Santa.” The charge for that is $10 per photo, which is a digital image that will be emailed. Children, family groups, or adults can take part.
Cookies and other treats will be available, and donations are being accepted for prepackaged unopened cookies and baked goods, and also sprinkles and frostings, VanScoyoc said.