LARGO -- Largo's mayor and commissioners made a painstaking and painful review of the budge at their work session meeting Tuesday as a tax increase undoubtedly loomed in all their minds.
This group always has been responsible, but now, in tough times, the going gets complicated (let alone the nuances of the budget) and tough questions are asked of the city staff. Their answers invariably are sensible and informed.
A key item in the budget review was the recommendations made by the Finance Advisory Board, an appointed body that lends citizen activity to the whole process.
The board had made 25 different recommendations, 10 applying to policy in the city and the other 15 related to budget items. In any event, virtually all recommendations impacted on spending considerations.
Largo taxpayers are facing an increase in the millage rate in fiscal year 2005, following an increase last year. This coming year, a full mill is expected to be added to the tax rate.
Needless to say, the necessity of raising the tax rate for the second year in a row after about a dozen years of a static tax rate has made the mayor and commissioners sensitive to the reaction of the citizenry.
Tuesday's work session was one of two scheduled this week to go over a lengthy list of budget related subjects. The second meeting is scheduled today.
One key element among the Finance Board's recommendations was to not borrow funds for the police computer system, a $5 million outlay that has been partially defrayed by grants.
Instead, the board urged that the project be delayed until fiscal 2006 and that time a dedicated .67 of a mill be allocated to pay for the system with that amount deleted after the computer project is paid for.
The commission chose instead to go with the budgeted plans for this sophisticated technology gear that is a must in the modern world.
Another recommendation was that salary increases in the city to be held to no greater than the average revenue increase or the consumer price index inflation factor, whichever is less. This general figure would include health insurance cost increases which have made a steady advance in recent years.
Hitting home for the mayor and commissioners was the recommendation of skipping a raise for them in 2005. At the accustomed rate of five percent in recent years, eliminating that in 2005 would save only $4,417, so the move would strictly be exemplary in what are termed hard times.
At least two commission members, Mayor Bob Jackson, who is currently paid $17,672, and Pat Burke, are strongly on record as opposing any move to skip a raise. Commissioners are paid $11,781.
In another policy recommendation, the Finance Board said property (ad valorem) taxes should not be increased more often than once every three years, unless the increase is dedicated to a special project.
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