INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - Commissioner Jose Coppen, in a review of what is happening with the city's budget process, has pinpointed the financial demands of the library committee, increased funding of the Arts Center and the support of the YMCA as problem areas in the city's strained financial situation.
Coppen says that he favors these programs but cautioned that said he fears that city resources may be over-extended.
There is a pell-mell effort in some quarters to leap into the financial swamp of a very expensive library which many observers think is imprudent given the easy access to three major, full-service libraries just minutes away from Indian Rocks Beach.
And the city continues to bear the burden of supporting a very questionable YMCA program.
For one thing, many taxpayers question whether public funds should go to a private organization.
The YMCA gig, which began with Belleair Beach, Belleair Shore, Indian Rocks Beach and Indian Shores as supporters, kicking in an aggregate $100,000 a year, has faltered.
Belleair Beach quit, eliminating its $20,000 donation. Elected officials there could find no benefit whatsoever to the city for the expenditure of those funds.
When Belleair Beach dropped out, the ante for Indian Rocks Beach was raised. Belleair Shore's contribution is negligible because of its small size.
Now there is talk that Indian Shores is getting ready to jump ship, which, should that happen, means the Indian Rocks Beach contribution would go up even more.
Coppen pointed out in a message to constituents that the city's millage rate reduction last year was done at the expense of pulling funds out of the city's surplus.
And, he said, "No major effort was exerted to cut costs and balance the budget. This year we face those same costs escalated by inflation and with the fiscal responsibility to replenish our reserves."
Coppen cited another problem. He said that city financial statements that should have been audited from 2002 through 2005 did not pass a recent audit. "This means that we really have no accurate figures of our account balances," Coppen said.
He predicted that the city budget would have to be increased and indicated that because the increase would be more than six percent, a super majority of the commission (five votes) would be required to pass it.
Property values in Indian Rocks Beach went up by 30 percent this year, but by Coppen's reckoning there will be a $100,000 shortfall to balance the fiscal year 2007 budget at the same millage rate. Thus, it looks like the millage rate will have to be increased.
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