If at first you don't succeed, vote again
By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA
© St. Petersburg Times,
BELLEAIR BEACH -- Council members dashed into City Hall on Friday afternoon from their regular jobs to vote for the second time this week on the city's millage rate and budget.
They thought they had done the job Wednesday night.
That was when Presiding Officer Chuck Pollick called for three different "yeas" and "nays" for next year's property tax rate, the operating budget, and the city's capital improvement plan. Each time he heard only "yeas."
But no official roll call vote was taken and, because the tape recording failed to record the voice vote, council members learned they inadvertently had violated the city charter.
Council member Frank Lombardi notified city attorney Paul Marino, who agreed the council's vote was technically invalid and recommended a special meeting be called to again approve the city's budget and property tax rate.
Lombardi, who has criticized the city's budget process and even walked out of a recent council discussion, claimed he had voted neither "yea" nor "nay" and actually opposed the budget and millage rate.
"I'm unhappy with this. I'm opposed to it. I don't like the way the whole thing was handled," Lombardi said at Friday's special meeting as he complained that he had been excluded on the city's budget committee. "All I can do is vote against the whole thing."
Lombardi tried unsuccessfully to reopen a discussion of the number of cars that will be purchased for the city's police department. The department had requested three new patrol cars in addition to an existing 4-by-4 truck. The budget includes money for two patrol cars. The third might be added if the city's police chief can justify a need, the council decided Wednesday.
When the roll call votes were taken Friday, five council members, including Mary Jo Henderson who participated by telephone from Michigan, repeated their yes votes, while Lombardi voted a loud "nay."
With that vote, Marino declared the city's 2001-2002 budget official.
Next year the city will be levying a 2.4690 millage rate that will generate an 11.6 percent increase in property tax revenues as part of a $1.449-million budget. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value.
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