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Budget cuts in Port Richey are still up in the air
The council is pressing for more cuts, without saying where the money will come from.
By CAMILLE C. SPENCER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 21, 2007
PORT RICHEY - During their fourth budget workshop since June, City Council members threw out ideas Monday evening on how to cut spending so they could cut property taxes even more:
Shop around for lower rates on utility services. Hire an in-house engineer. The mayor even offered to return his paychecks to the city.
But by the end of the 11/2-hour workshop, city officials were no closer to any firm cuts, and voted to schedule another workshop for next week.
"You still don't have an answer," former council member Phyllis Grae told the council. "We're just a couple of weeks away, and now I understand it's even less than that, to get this budget all tied up."
City Manager Jerry Calhoun originally prepared a budget with a property tax rate of 4.163 mills, low enough to meet the state-mandated property tax cuts. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 in taxable property.
But the council abruptly lowered the rate to 3.9 mills last month while Calhoun was out sick, without specifying where the spending cuts would come from.
At first Calhoun said that would mean a shortfall of $80,000. But he said Monday the number is closer to $117,000.
He's got a plan, though: The city can fill that hole with unspent money from this past year's budget.
But council members are pressing for more cuts. Last month they also asked Calhoun to present ways to cut the budget by 10, 20 or 30 percent.
Calhoun offered plans A, B and C at Monday evening's workshop. The spending plans provided different amounts for supplies, repairs, maintenance and reserves, but all three kept the city's work force intact.
During Monday's workshop, Calhoun recommended proposal B, which he called a "maintenance-only type budget."
"It's extremely tight, but I think it's doable, if we don't have any major repairs," he said. "If a large storm blows through, we'd have to pull from reserves."
By the end of Monday's workshop, city officials were optimistic about finding a way to further cut spending. The new budget year starts Oct. 1.
"My feeling is, (the next budget workshop) Tuesday night consists of the price is right," Mayor Richard Rober said. "A, B or C."