BELLEAIR BLUFFS – The city’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes revenue from a millage rate hike from 5.35 mills to 5.57. The increase would bring in an additional $50,000, which City Administrator Debra Sullivan said the city will lose if a constitutional amendment to raise the Homestead Exemption passes in November, as expected.

If the Homestead Amendment does not pass, Sullivan said the additional money will be used for the ongoing road repair and improvement project on the city’s east side, and the millage rate will be reassessed the following year.

The commission got its first look at the proposed budget and millage rate increase in the packet given to commission members prior to the June 11 commission workshop. Mayor Chris Arbutine said at the meeting there had been little time to review the budget information and discussion should be put off. The other commissioners agreed.

Budget talks will begin soon, Sullivan said, and conclude with the adoption of next year’s budget and millage rate on Sept. 6. The city’s current millage of 5.35 is currently the sixth-highest rate in the county. The rate was last raised in 2012, in anticipation of a $1.5 million pension payment due to the city’s former firefighters.

Another revenue source for the city is a 10 percent utility tax, passed in 2016. But Sullivan said income from the tax this year is “way down from the previous year.” The commission is committed to use half of the utility tax revenue for the road project.

Commission agrees to code review

A professional planning service will assist the city with code revisions needed to permit the development of town houses in select locations, mostly in the Indian Rocks Road, Jewell Road and Belmar Drive areas.

A developer is acquiring duplexes and triplexes and wants to replace them with upscale town houses. Ric Feinberg of Belleair Asset Management, LLC, told the city commission at their May workshop the town homes would be “a significant improvement of the properties and a significant improvement for Belleair Bluffs.” The properties “would be substantially upgraded,” Feinberg said.

The problem is, the current city code does not allow what Feinberg is requesting, City Attorney Thomas Trask said.

Trask then recommended the city hire a planner who would advise the city how the code can be changed “and what the consequences are.”

Arbutine agreed at the June 11 workshop to hire Calvin, Giordano & Associates of Clearwater, at a cost not to exceed $10,000, to provide professional planning services. The purpose is “to assist the city with the development and adoption of appropriate code revisions to permit the development of town houses in select areas of the city.” The firm also will provide continuing planning assistance, as needed, to be billed at an hourly rate.

City Administrator Sullivan said the city has not had a code review since 2008 and “it is very much needed now.” She said businesses are coming in with development issues and requests and “It’s time to look at where we’re going, as we have no room to expand.”

Old firehouse property getting ‘a lot of activity’

The old fire station on Indian Rocks Road is getting a lot of attention from potential buyers, Sullivan reported.

Sullivan said the Realtor hired by the city to market the property has already shown the station 12 times. “She ran a full-page ad in the Belleair Bee and got a lot of response to that,” Sullivan said.

In addition, she has done a mailing and promoted it on the web.

The building served as a fire station for over 50 years, before the new Station 43 on Bayway Avenue opened in October 2017.

‘We are ready’ for July 4

Planning for the city’s Fourth of July celebration is going well, said City Clerk Alexis Silcox.

“We are ready,” she told the commission.

This year’s activities feature a bounce house and face painting for kids, and the Sheriff’s department will do fingerprinting.

Entertainment will be provided by the “Singing Sinatras,” male singers who Sullivan said are “different and good.”

The traditional lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as the baked-goods competition will continue.

The activities are set.

“We just need to decorate,” said Silcox.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, July 4.

Commission meeting date changed

This month’s regular commission meeting has been moved from Monday, June 18, to Tuesday, June 26.