LARGO — City commissioners unanimously approved the fiscal year 2022 budget on Sept. 7 and along with it will come some big changes.
The police department is the recipient of some of the most notable additions to the $262,440,700 budget.
The implementation of a body-worn camera program for each of the department’s sworn officers comes at a cost of $546,000. Added to that cost will be an annual $61,300 expense to fund a police records technician.
The budget also includes an additional $419,200 for three new officers and $84,600 for a new public information position. The department will also receive a new mobile command vehicle at a cost of $950,000.
General fund expenditures total nearly $97 million, a large increase attributed to the largest capital project in the city’s history — a new $55 million City Hall on West Bay Drive.
The city intends to borrow $60 million to fund that long-term project as well as the reconstruction of a new Parks Administration facility, which is expected to cost $3.6 million.
Other notable expenditures in the budget include Central Park Performing Arts Center renovations ($1.1 million), Largo Central Railroad maintenance shed reconstruction ($400,000), McGough Nature Park boardwalk and pier repairs ($50,000), downtown landscaping and branding investments ($224,500) and Southwest Recreation Complex pool and dive tower renovations ($1.4 million).
City Manager Henry Schubert’s proposed budget called for maintaining last year’s rate of 5.62 mills, or $5.62 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable value.
However, considering solid waste and wastewater fees will be increasing, Mayor Woody Brown and Commissioners Michael Smith and Donna Holck said they preferred a slightly smaller tax rate of 5.58 mills.
“I see a lot of construction going on in Largo,” Brown said. “I don’t think that we’re going to have much of a challenge in the future as far as increased revenue from new development. We’re seeing a lot of people investing in our city so I think it’s well worth it to give our taxpayers a little bit of a break this year, because we can without cutting any service at all.”
Commissioners Eric Gerard, Jamie Robinson and John Carroll said they leaned toward the higher rate to boost reserves.
Ultimately, they did approve the lower rate, with Commissioner Samantha Fenger casting the lone no vote.
The lower rate, however, won’t mean taxes will go down for Largo property owners.
Because the Pinellas County Property Appraiser has projected an increase in taxable value of 8.13 percent in the city, taxes will still rise.
The new rate, which will generate about $31.3 million in general fund tax revenue, will mean the owner of a home with a taxable value of about $100,000 will pay about $7 more in taxes.
A second and final hearing on the tax rate will be held at the commission’s next regular meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, at City Hall.