tampabay.com

Any ideas how Dunedin could save some cash?

If you work for the city, ideas can earn days off. Anyone can help.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published May 11, 2007


DUNEDIN - As local city governments prepare to take their budgets to the chopping block, Dunedin is taking a unique approach: asking for help - help from everyone.

Are you a city employee with a suggestion on how to cut expenditures or increase revenue? Great. Throw it in the basket. If it's is implemented, you can get up to three days off. With pay.

City Manager Robert DiSpirito launched the incentive program. He asked department heads and midlevel managers to give front-line employees time during work hours to brainstorm.

DiSpirito also wants ideas from residents, even if they don't live in Dunedin. Anyone can make a suggestion through the "City Manger's Hotline" available through www.dunedingov.com.

No word yet whether prizes will be awarded to the best e-mailed suggestions.

At Dunedin's first public budget workshop Thursday for the coming fiscal year, commissioners acknowledged that threatened legislative mandates potentially could lead to cutting millions from the general fund, home to the library, public safety, parks and recreation departments and more. General fund expenditures in 2006 were $25.4-million, and rose to $33-million this year.

City finance director Sandy Sanders told commissioners the general fund reserves are healthy - 21 percent or about $5.5-million. City policy is to maintain at least 15 percent.

However, in this climate of uncertainty for local governments as the state legislature heads into a special session to discuss property tax cuts, commissioners stopped short Thursday of singling out where cuts can or can't be made. City property tax revenue this year is $9.2-million, about a third of Dunedin's general fund.

That revenue will decrease if legislators roll back tax rates. Dunedin actually decreased its millage rate for the current tax year, dropping it 7.5 percent from 4.4253 mils to 4.0934 mils.

Public safety represents 40 percent of the general fund.

The fire department is 24 percent of that and the contract with the Sheriff's Office is 16 percent.

Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said Thursday she didn't want to wait for numbers to be further crunched before giving DiSpirito policy direction.

"Waiting any further I think is putting off the inevitable, " she said. "This is a budget workshop. What else are we supposed to do?"

Mayor Bob Hackworth said he didn't want to speculate until a decision was made in Tallahassee.

"We can't make our decision until they make theirs," he said.

The city's next public budget workshops are July 10, 11 and 13.

How to help

Got a budget idea?

Anyone can make a suggestion through the "City Manger's Hotline" available through www.dunedingov.com.