CLEARWATER - On September 18, the Island Estates Civic Association (IECA) held its second Town Hall Meeting of 2006 at the Clearwater Main Public Library. The guest speaker was the Honorable Mayor Frank Hibbard.
In anticipation of property tax questions, Mayor Hibbard began the meeting by telling attendees that the council and city staff had reviewed the 2006-2007 budgets and would be increasing the reduction of millage from .333 proposed in the original budget to .5 providing tax payers additional relief. The Mayor stated that further reductions without careful study would be a knee jerk reaction to citizen complaints of high taxes and would be irresponsible. He assured the audience a process would be put in place to seriously review next year's budget in all areas for possible further reductions. He provided some examples for consideration: The city of Largo has a population of about 75,000 and has one library. Clearwater's population is 110,000 and has five libraries. While he does not want to reduce the police force, he said there may be an opportunity to reduce the number of substations within the City to save expenses. Currently there are ten. He mentioned that 68.5 percent of the budgeted expenses are personnel related. The Mayor said any further significant reductions in expenses would most likely impact services to the citizens and city employees and, therefore, must be scrutinized carefully and methodically. Several citizens requested the City review user fees such as storm water fees and sewer fees. Clearwater's storm water fees are the second highest in the State.
Mayor Hibbard also reviewed progress on StreetScape, the Beach Walk project and the Downtown Boat Slips. When asked about the original proposal's shortfall of $300 thousand for the Boat Slip project, Mayor Hibbard stated that the original study was very conservative using higher bond rates than current market, lower slip rents than other areas in SW Florida and a large contingency fund. Staff has made some increases to proposed rents and will be applying for grants funded by the boater fuel tax as well as making other adjustments that will provide for project estimates to be revenue neutral or perhaps revenue positive.
Frank Dame, president of the Civic Association followed Mayor Hibbard with a somber warning that more of the Island Estates community must join the Civic Association if it is to survive and prosper. He also appealed to the audience for volunteers to fill outgoing board member positions due to term limits or personal circumstances. "Without a slate of candidates to fill these positions, including the president's position, and an increase in membership within the community, the voluntary Island Estates Civic Association is in jeopardy of dissolution," said Dame.
The IECA is responsible for maintaining most of the common areas within Island Estates including the front entryway plantings, lighting, American flag and the main median running from the south to the north end of the island (Island Way). The Association is also a sponsor of Sunset Sam Park and is the first line of management for one of only two Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts (NCOD) within the City of Clearwater. It is also the only organization representing the entire community on common issues.
Those residents interested in membership may call Debra Gregory at 365-6752. Any resident interested in serving as an officer or board member of the Association may call Frank Dame at 692-2655 or 442-2237.
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition