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Oldsmar budget plan shows city's prosperity

The proposal, with help from growing property values, includes hiring five new city employees and passing out raises - but no tax rate increase.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 26, 2000


OLDSMAR -- Thanks in part to Oldsmar's booming growth, the city will be able to expand services, improve drainage to Harbor Palms, expand its reclaimed water system and give some city employees hefty pay raises.

City Manager Bruce Haddock's proposed budget, which is packed with capital improvement projects, totals $19.3-million for the fiscal year 2000-01, an increase of $422,331 from the current fiscal year.

"Should be a busy year," Haddock said.

Although Haddock proposes to keep the city's property tax rate at its current level, residents still will face higher taxes because property values have increased.

As proposed, the tax rate would remain $4.65 in city property tax for every $1,000 of assessed, non-exempt property value. On a home assessed for tax purposes at $75,000 with a $25,000 homestead exemption, the proposed tax rate would result in a city tax bill of $232.50. That hypothetical tax bill does not include taxes levied by the school district, the Pinellas County Commission or other local authorities.

The total taxable value in Oldsmar, not including new construction, went up 5.9 percent from last year, one of the highest increases in property values in the area.

The city plans to use the additional tax revenue generated by higher property values to give salary increases to about half of the city's 122 employees, pay for a 9 percent increase in employee health and dental insurance and cover increases in operating expenses such as the cost of gasoline, Haddock said.

A salary analysis completed about a year ago determined that, on average, city salaries were about 15 percent below the market. In response, Haddock proposes to give 61 employees pay increases ranging from $166 to $3,950 a year, depending on their position.

"We had some difficulty recruiting people for entry-level positions," Haddock said. "We needed to do this, that's for sure."

Haddock also proposes hiring five new employees for the Public Works and Park and Recreation departments, library and city clerk's office.

The proposed budget also includes several big-ticket items like a new $1.5-million fire station, new baseball and T-ball fields at Canal Park, improvements to the city's senior center and about $1-million in improvements to the city's reclaimed water lines.

The city also is planning to spend $700,000 on improvements to stormwater drainage pipes serving the Harbor Palms subdivision and the city's first stormwater master plan, which will be a blueprint of sorts for further stormwater improvements.

"When you are in a situation where the city is in a very strong cash position and the population values are rapidly increasing because of development, the city finds itself in a very strong cash position, which means it can complete the projects it needs to," Mayor Jeff Sandler said. "Now that the city is growing up, if you will, the city has the chance to improve its infrastructure. That's what it is all about, giving people more for their tax value."

City officials discussed Haddock's proposed budget at a work session Monday night. There will be public hearings on the proposed budget and tax rate in September.

* * *

-- Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or at quioco@sptimes.com.

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