In his first funds main Clearwater’s administration, Metropolis Supervisor Jon Jennings proposes utilizing file property tax income to enhance public companies and deal with inefficiencies moderately than reducing the tax fee.
Duty of streets, sidewalks and medians was unfold amongst a number of departments, leading to a backlog of repairs that Jennings took over when he joined town in November. For the 2023 funds, town supervisor has created a Public Works division that he mentioned will streamline restore and upkeep. He additionally launched an Workplace of Innovation, which he mentioned will make town extra proactive on all the pieces from synthetic intelligence to resident complaints and site visitors enhancements.
“We can not proceed to ask our workers to do extra with much less, and since frankly, the return merely isn’t there,” Jennings mentioned at a piece session this week.
The $652 million funds for fiscal 12 months 2023, 4% bigger than final 12 months, proposes the identical tax fee that has been in place since 2018. As a result of property values elevated 13.2 p.c, residents will see a rise of their tax payments.
The Metropolis Council voted Thursday to set the tentative tax fee no larger than $5.95 per $1,000 of assessed, taxable worth. The council will maintain a funds workshop on Aug. 2 and can vote to undertake the funds in September.
The proposed tax fee will herald $86 million in income, $9.3 million greater than final 12 months, in keeping with funds supervisor Kayleen Kastel.
The funds requires 62 new positions, however by eliminating vacancies and transferring different workers between funding sources, Jennings might be creating 33 new positions.
With town’s $84 million renovation of Coachman Park anticipated to open subsequent 12 months, Jennings is proposing 14 new workers in Parks and Recreation to cowl downtown. His funds additionally proposes hiring 10 law enforcement officials to concentrate on Clearwater Seaside as staffing ranges haven’t stored up with demand from vacationers and new lodge improvement.
Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard mentioned he was involved about not decreasing the tax fee at a time when property values, and prices of dwelling, are hovering.
He mentioned he needs to additional talk about staffing ranges on the Aug. 4 workshop.
“With all of the inflation and all the pieces else, we’ve had a windfall this 12 months, I simply consider that we shouldn’t be at (the identical tax fee),” Hibbard mentioned at this week’s work session. “I believe our residents deserve some break.”
Council member Kathleen Beckman advocated for sustaining the tax fee as a result of town is so behind on obligations like sidewalk repairs and worker wages. Main initiatives are additionally within the pipeline, which would require extra staffing and sources, she mentioned.
The town is getting ready to design a brand new Metropolis Corridor. Jennings’ funds consists of the reopening of restrooms throughout town and increasing hours at a library. Council member Mark Bunker agreed, noting the necessity for extra police to patrol the seashore and elevated workers wanted for initiatives like the brand new downtown waterfront park.
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“Our new metropolis supervisor has lots of formidable duties to enhance town, and I believe we should always assist him,” Bunker mentioned. “I don’t assume now’s the time to be trimming again.”