Letter sent to Clearwater City leaders
I was shocked to learn this week that as of October, the Countryside library will be closing early a few nights a week, and will be closed entirely on Fridays and Saturdays. This is absolutely the wrong answer to the city's budget problems.
What I urge the city to look at is imposing limits on the number of tax-exempt properties it is allowing to be purchased in the city, properties that are beautiful, highly valued waterfront property that would get millions of dollars back on the tax roll. Keep the library open - keep the tax exempt buildings out.
I would like a response. Thank you.
- June Connell
Thank you for your comments and for being involved in our community.
I think that the Mayor and every member of the City Council agrees with you that our libraries are an integral and important part of the fabric of our community, and I think the cuts that have been made give us great pause.
The fact of the matter is, however, that Amendment 1 did pass, increasing the homestead exemption and reducing city property tax revenues by about $2.8 million.
It is also a matter of fact that the general decline in property values reduced our property tax revenues by just over another $3.1 million.
The clear implication of the vote on Amendment 1 was that a majority of the public expected and demanded that the millage remain at the same level as last year, so an additional $2.2 million in cuts were made to the budget, almost back to last year's millage.
I don't want to compromise our quality of life, but our spending is limited by our revenues, and this year the revenues will be cut substantially.
Nearly half of our operating budget goes to police and fire, and almost everyone said we should not cut there. We have to have a personnel department, and finance, and legal, and engineering, and so on. As important as I believe our library system and our recreation system are, and I believe they are very important, these are the areas that end up being cut in our city and in every city when times are tough and we have to get by with less.
The direction of the City Council was to avoid putting all the sacrifice on any one part of the city, to keep all the libraries open some days and to have some library or libraries available each day. It is less than we've had and less than I want, but I believe that it is important to keep the system working.
Your opinion is important and I encourage you to share it with the public. The city budget will be on the agenda for public input at our City Council meetings on Thursday, September 4, and Thursday, September 18. Both meetings are at City Hall, in Council Chambers, starting at 6 pm.
Thank you again for being involved.
- john doran, Clearwater City Council
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