Safety Harbor City Commission votes in favor of budget

With little dissent, the Safety Harbor City Commission approved keeping the city’s 3.95 millage rate intact and the fiscal year 2019 budget at its Sept. 4 meeting.

Both will be considered for the second and final time on Sept. 17.

The millage rate, one of the lowest in Pinellas County and the lowest of comparable cities in Pinellas County, passed 5-0, while the proposed $76 million budget was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Cliff Merz casting the no vote.

Merz expressed concern with the inclusion of 3 percent merit raise for city employees. Merz said he was in favor of the raise, but has concerns about what Amendment 1 will mean for city finances if it is approved this November. The amendment, which would increase the homestead exemption for many homeowners, is expected to cost the city more than $300,000 in tax revenue if passed. Merz favored holding off on the merit raise until after the election and, if Amendment 1 passes, giving employees the same pool of money, but as a bonus rather than a pay increase so it doesn’t affect future budgets.

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Commissioner Nancy Besore also raised concern over the inclusion of $10,000 for a study for a possible Complete Streets project with Forward Pinellas, the county’s metropolitan planning organization. The Complete Streets program reimagines streets, in this case State Route 590, to make them more walkable and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Besore was worried that residents along the road would not like some of the suggestions from the study and also was concerned about the potential costs of implementing any changes. Commission agreed, and the $10,000 was removed from the budget.

OTHER ACTION TAKEN

Purchase of land: Commission voted 5-0 to buy two parcels of land – the last two properties that are part of the Folly Farms Preserve, which was donated to the city by George Weiss, and what is known as the King property, which is two parcels next to the city’s main Public Works Complex. The eventual goal is to consolidate all Public Works activities by moving the Parks and Building Maintenance operations from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. to the new land.

Extension of restrictions in the Coastal High Hazard Area: These are changes to the city’s land development code suggested by Forward Pinellas to make them consistent with countywide rules. Commission voted 5-0 on second reading to amend the ordinance it approved 5-0 last meeting to also ban the extending of restrictions from within the Coastal High Hazard Area, at the request of Merz. Because of the vote, the ordinance will need to be re-advertised and will be considered by Commission again at two future meetings.

Proposed land development code changes: Commission provided feedback to city staff on a proposed ordinance that would, among many smaller things, require lots to be replatted and combined before a building can be constructed over two or more adjacent lots. The ordinance, reflecting those changes, will come before Commission in the future.

Revising business tax application requirements: Commission voted 5-0 on first reading to change the start date for business tax receipts and revising exemptions for veterans and others, based on changes to Florida statutes.

Parks & Recreation Advisory Board appointment: Commission voted 5-0 to appoint alternate Tammy Vrana as a full member and James Poulter as the new alternate.

MISSED THE MEETING?

Watch the video of it on the city’s website here: http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=2029

NEXT MEETING

7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 17.

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