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Largo taps savings for utility bills

Fuel costs are also eating away at the city's budget, although revenue is expected to rise and cover the expenses.

By TERRI BRYCE REEVES
Published August 24, 2006

LARGO - Pumped-up gasoline prices.

Shocking utility bills.

Everyone is feeling the pinch these days, including Largo.

On Tuesday, city commissioners took action to make sure the city lights stayed on. By a 5-1 vote, commissioners approved an ordinance to appropriate $332,200 from the undesignated general fund - the city's savings account - to pay anticipated increases for utilities and motor fuel for the remainder of the fiscal year. Commissioner Andy Guyette was absent and Commissioner Mary Black voted against the ordinance.

"Everyone's costs are going up. We certainly hope that these costs hold and in the best case drop some," said Henry Schubert, assistant city manager.

Three departments had requested additional money for utilities and motor fuels: Recreation, Parks and Arts; Fire Rescue; and General Operating.

The Recreation Department is a "big user of utilities," Schubert said. "We have two major recreation complexes (Highland and Southwest) to cool and light and then we have lots of other sports complexes with athletic fields and tennis courts, which also need lighting," he said.

Together, Highland and Southwest requested more than $100,000 in additional money for utility bills. Other athletic facilities and programs anticipated additional utility costs of $54,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year.

The 25,000-square-foot Largo Cultural Center is projected to need $8,000 more for power bills; Largo Central Park, $30,000; and the nature parks, $8,000.

Largo's Fire Rescue is looking for $17,500 in additional money to pay its utility bills and almost $32,000 more for fueling costs.

The General Operating Department, which pays utilities for the municipal complex and the currently vacant PSTA and former library buildings, projected a need for an additional $71,300. The two vacant buildings are air-conditioned to prevent humidity. The biggest surprise was the cost of utilities for the PSTA buildings. Budgeted at $1,000 per month, actual expenses are $3,100 per month.

"We bought it and it's listed for lease and (the $1,000) was just a rough estimate. We didn't know what to expect," Schubert said.

On the upside - for the city anyway - revenue from franchise fees and utility tax revenue is projected to bring in almost $1-million in additional revenue: from $14.7-million in the current fiscal year to $15.7-million in the upcoming fiscal year.

That would more than offset the budget amendment.

"Because everyone's costs are rising, our tax revenues are going up faster than our utility bills," Schubert said.

[Last modified August 24, 2006, 07:12:45]


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