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Public gives list of cuts, keepers to City Council

Council members hear a mix of specific requests and general complaints.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published May 27, 2007


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ST. PETERSBURG - Some said cut.

Cut gas consumption. Cut the signs on city cars. Cut the deputy mayors. Cut benefits. Cut replacing stop signs.

Others said keep.

Keep funding for the tennis center. Keep giving the Pier Aquarium $90, 000. Keep police. Keep fire.

For two hours Thursday, residents got their say on what next year's city budget should look like.

The opinions, as they usually are, were all over the place.

City Council members framed the budget discussion as a way to identify potential cost savings in next year's budget.

Some residents actually offered specific ideas. But most either were fighting to keep tax dollars in their projects or just wanted to vent about the entire system.

Dr. David McKalip, organizer of the crusading Cut Taxes Now political group, said the city needs to drop the idea that it drives residents' quality of life.

"As if it's your job to provide quality of life for me, " said McKalip, who later became frustrated with council members and walked out of the meeting. "We can do it by ourselves."

McKalip took issue with subsidies the city is giving to groups like the Pier Aquarium and the St. Petersburg Tennis Center.

He also wondered why council members were not finding areas of the budget to cut themselves.

"If you don't know where to cut the spending, you don't belong on the City Council, " he said.

City resident Hamilton Hanson suggested that the city reset its thermostats and reduce its energy consumption.

He also seemed angry that he even had to tell council members as much.

"You got a fiduciary responsibility to preserve our tax dollars, " Hanson said. "If you can't do it, quit!"

The city has not prepared a draft budget as it awaits the property tax changes being discussed in Tallahassee.

But all council members are predicting that cuts are likely.

Council members are scheduled to meet again June 10 to discuss next year's budget, which goes into effect Oct. 1.

[Last modified May 26, 2007, 18:42:30]


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