Indecision Leaves Largo Budget Guru to do Some Guesswork
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The City Commission did a lot of discussing last Thursday as the budget-wrestling problem continued, but the commission gave no sure direction on what its desires were.
Consequently, Amy Davis, the main number cruncher in creating the budget, was left with lots of guesswork.
And the guessing left some questions.
The City Commission can take definitive votes only at regular meetings. At work sessions or budget review sessions, which is like a work session, and some direction is desired; the commission has to do it by consensus.
The meeting August 19 heard a lot of ideas and suggestions but Mayor Pat Gerard failed to get specific with her colleagues and elicit some kind of consensus from them on particular items.
As a result, this week was spent trying to figure out what the commission wanted to do in regard to some problem areas in the budget, which is fast closing out with public hearings set September 13 and 22.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes, whose alertness seems to dominate the commission these days and is growing into some strong leadership, suggested last Friday that an e-mail be sent to commission members "to confirm the direction that staff believes was provided at the budget work session last night."
Davis responded to that Monday by Davis.
There apparently was no disagreement that she understood the commission wanted to fund the very controversial Nature Center at McGough Park, but then came some problems.
While Davis - lacking any indication of consensus from the commission and again, guessing - thought the question of posting a promotional sign at the Largo Golf Course had a green light, Holmes alerted her that he and Gerard had said no to the sign and that "most agreed."
Then there was the question of subsidizing the golf course, which takes some $200,000 or so of taxpayers' money, and Davis thought the indication was to have the city staff look into "other management options, monitor the revenue closely and give a revenue update mid-year."
But Holmes said that no decision was made except to "accept an idea of Commissioner (Harriet) Crozier to lease the facility to a (private) company that runs" such courses.
The huge cost of subsidizing the Cultural Center, which costs taxpayers almost a half million dollars a year and has been a target of Holmes, was to continue, the way Davis apparently understood it.
Holmes in the strongest language at the meeting last week opposed dumping any more money into the center. "I am opposed that taxpayer funds from the many subsidize the entertainment of a few," he said.
During the August 19 meeting Holmes also questioned how some of the revenue at the Cultural Center was handled, wondering if funds from the refreshment area were "commingled" - some of which are taxable - with other revenues.
Joan Byrne, the director of Recreation, Parks and Arts, has the Cultural Center as part of her bailiwick, and she seemed to evince no understanding of what the word commingling means.
Holmes responded to Davis on the Cultural Center issue and said that he said at the meeting last week that he was opposed to continuing to subsidize the Cultural Center "but there was very little further comment."
That issue was clearly left up in the air, Holmes said later - "Don't know why but (I) suspect much."
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