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City must cut $157,092 from slim budget
The passage of Amendment 1 leaves Port Richey officials searching for ways to trim.
By CAMILLE C. SPENCER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 31, 2008
PORT RICHEY - The day after voters approved Amendment 1, city officials were left wondering how to cut $157,092 from an already slim budget.
That's the city's estimated loss of revenue from the doubling of the homestead exemption, a measure estimated to save taxpayers statewide $9.3-billion over five years by chopping from local governments and school budgets.
Officials said no cuts in services or jobs are expected in this city of 3,200. Even so, city officials on Wednesday began searching for ways to trim their $10.3-million budget. They just weren't sure exactly how.
"A lot of municipalities look at payroll, and that's not my first choice," said Mayor Richard Rober. "We could look at nontraditional sources of revenue, like the red light cameras, or a little in reserves. I think it's going to be a combination of several things, when they come down to it."
The lost revenue will be shared between the city's general fund, which stands to lose $30,085, and Community Redevelopment Agency revenues from the city and county, which are $53,073 and $79,934, respectively.
While the passing of Amendment 1 decreased the city's total taxable value by $21-million, Rober said city officials can better estimate budget projections when the county property appraiser's office releases property values in the spring.
"It's like a puzzle," he said. "There's all these pieces, and you have to make it fit."
City Manager Richard Reade said he is looking for ways to cut the budget without cutting city staff.
"We are going to look at how we operate, and if we can do things more efficiently and see if there are ways we can do things differently without reducing levels of service to customers," he said. "Our citizens expect a level of services we hope to meet and hopefully exceed."
This isn't the first time city officials have been forced to make cuts.
Last year, City Council braced for a 7 percent cut mandated by state lawmakers by combining the police and fire departments into a public safety department. Budget estimates were promising until city officials abruptly cut the tax rate from 4.163 to 3.9 mills, creating a shortfall of $117,000.
A mill is $1 of tax for each $1,000 of taxable property, so a mill in Port Richey raises $383,000.
The council pulled $75,000 from reserves, cut $20,000 from the city manager's salary and made other cuts.
On Wednesday, Ed Winch, city building official, said Reade spoke with him and other department heads about finding ways to trim the budget.
"Everybody is trying to tighten their belts, and everybody knew it was coming. It's like, now we ask the contractors to bring in their own pencils," Winch said, laughing. "We're just looking to see what we can do."