Fire chief says tax plan may force no layoffs
City officials here and in Pinellas Park are likely less enthusiastic about the results.
By ANNE LINDBERG
Published June 17, 2007
SEMINOLE - Chief Dan Graves is breathing a hesitant sigh of relief that he might not have to lay off any firefighters under the new tax plan the Legislature passed Thursday.
Seminole officials had notified the fire union earlier in the week that layoffs were a virtual certainty under the proposal that was on the table when legislators convened Tuesday.
But firefighters, including three from Seminole, rallied this week in Tallahassee, asking the Legislature for leniency.
Seminole was worried because three of its four stations are in the unincorporated area and funded solely by property taxes from residents of unincorporated Pinellas County. A severe cutback in property taxes would have affected those three stations.
The city estimated that the crew for an entire engine could have been laid off, taking that vehicle out of service.
But Graves said in a Thursday night memo to firefighters that the lobbying efforts "have brought us some relief."
The Legislature reduced the taxes that go to districts like Seminole, but not as much as officials had feared.
"Although we will not be left unscathed, " Graves wrote, "the results may, and I emphasize MAY, enable us to weather this year's cuts without layoffs."
The news, Graves said Friday, is "fantastic." He cautioned that things could change once the city gets firm figures, but at least the outlook is better than it was.
The impact of the changes on Seminole's operating budget is unclear. City Manager Frank Edmunds and budget guru Harry Kyne were unavailable Friday. Edmunds said earlier in the week that he planned to take a proposed budget to the council at its June 26 meeting.
Pinellas Park officials had no reason to celebrate the Legislature's decision. The city had prepared a tentative budget that showed $2.2-million in cuts, among them the elimination of 13 positions that include two police officers, a firefighter, a fire inspector and a code enforcement officer. No one will lose their jobs, but those positions are unfilled.
Also on the block were charitable donations, which were cut by 20 percent, Pinellas Park City Manager Mike Gustafson said.
Gustafson said he's already concerned about the 2008-09 budget. Under the new program, Pinellas Park stands to lose another $3-million then.
[Last modified June 16, 2007, 21:25:26]
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