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    Help wanted: media handler

    That's one twist in Oldsmar's proposed budget. With several big projects complete, the budget shrinks.

    By ED QUIOCO, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published July 19, 2002

    OLDSMAR -- Oldsmar's population grew by more than 3,500 people -- or more than 42 percent -- from 1990 to 2000. Trouble is, city officials worry that a lot of those folks don't know enough about their new hometown.

    That's why, along with beefing up the city's Parks and Recreation Department with three new employees, the city's proposed budget for next year includes a new position geared at handling the media and improving communication with the public.

    One of the main goals of the $31,000-per-year communications coordinator would be to promote city programs in the print and electronic media, said City Manager Bruce Haddock.

    "The fact that the city has grown so much . . . in the last four or five years, we have a lot of new residents who are not familiar with the programs and activities that we have," Haddock said.

    The new position, which would be out of the city manager's office, is part of Haddock's proposed $19-million budget for the fiscal year 2002-03. The proposed budget is about $11-million less than the budget for the current fiscal year.

    That's because the current year's budget included several high-dollar projects such as the city's new $1.3-million fire station, which was completed about two months ago, and a $2.6-million water booster pump station and storage facility. The proposed budget does not have as many big-ticket items.

    City Council members are scheduled to discuss the budget at 6 p.m. July 30 at the library's reading room on State Street. Council members have the final say on the budget.

    Mayor Jerry Beverland said he has some questions about the budget and the proposed communications coordinator position.

    "I'm going to have to be convinced," Beverland said.

    Other big-ticket items included in the proposed budget are $190,000 to design a new library, $250,000 to upgrade and replace old water lines downtown, $565,000 to improve the city's stormwater system, $600,000 to build Cypress Forest Park north of Tampa Road and $100,000 to design a recreation center at that park.

    "There are a number of significant improvements which will be of long-term benefit to the city," Haddock wrote in a summary letter for the budget, which was released this week.

    Although Haddock is proposing to keep the city's property tax rate at its current level, residents can still expect to pay more in taxes because property values have increased.

    At the current rate of 4.65 mills, a resident with a home valued at $80,000 and a $25,000 homestead exemption would pay $255.75 in city taxes.

    Haddock's proposed budget calls for five new full-time city employees. Those positions are the communications coordinator, a heavy equipment operator for parks, two recreation coordinators and an information technology analyst for the administrative services department.

    If council members approve the new positions, the communications coordinator would handle calls from the media and the public, put together employee newsletters and help write fliers that go to residents.

    "There are probably some things that we could do a better job of promoting, like our recreation programs and the city's reclaimed water system," Haddock said.

    -- Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or

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