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City Finances Get $970,000 Boost

Officials found the money in the the water and sewer utility reserves. Now, city leaders will have to decide how to use it.

New Port Richey city leaders authorized the transfer Tuesday, April 2 of $967,699 from the city’s water and utility fund to the general fund.

That means they now have some extra spending money on hand to use in the general fund to use in the general, which is the primary fund for paying for most city services.

The transfer of $967, 699 follows the recommendations of a five-year revenue study by consulting firm Burton & Associates. The city restructured its utility debt last year to allow for transfers to the general fund and asked the consulting firm to weigh in.

The transfer includes $847,599 generated by the annual payment from Tampa Bay Water for the purchase of utility assets. It also includes $100,000 as part of a new payment in lieu of franchise fees.

The council didn’t make any decisions on how to allocate the extra money. 

But Councilman Bill Phillips has a few ideas on how to use the cash and presented a list possibilities to other council members.

Here’s a glimpse at a few his suggestions: 

  • $650,000 for city reserves.  The city razed condemned trailers at the troubled Walden Pond Mobile Home Park last year and cleaned up afterward, and it pledged taxpayer money to do so,  The owners of Walden Pond now owe the city more than  $143,000, a price tag that that includes the clean up and other costs, like fines for unpaid water bills. The city also had to settle recently in a lawsuit  about  a zoning issue that that will ultimately cost taxpayers $362,500.
  • $100, 000 to fund a community policing program
  • $50,000 to stabilize the Hacienda Hotel
  • $50,000 for streamlining the CRA and updating legal language
  • $37, 000 for legal fees  to update the city land use code and upgrade development department computers.
  • $40, 000 for library computer and service upgrades
  • $40,000 for the fire department

Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe liked the idea of updating the city’s land use code. The code “stinks,” he said.

“I would encourage all of you to give some serious consideration to that particular item, he said.

Tuesday was Marlowe’s last meeting in his term as a councilmember. He’s not running for re-election April 9.

What do you think the city should do with the money? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

Rob Marlowe April 05, 2013 at 11:01 AM
The entire land use code needs an overhaul. We have companies that want to bring jobs to the city that have no zoning category that fits (eg. Advanced Research Institute) and we are on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars because the zoning code was too restrictive to allow a two acre riverfront parcel to be divided into two lots. The limits on business signage are honored more in the breach than the observance. We have companies on US 19 using billboards on their property to advertise their businesses and yet churches have problems when they want to put out a banner advertising Vacation Bible School. The problem has always been finding enough money to do a comprehensive rewrite of the code rather than just editing around the edges. There is enough money identified in the utility report to do the job right and the council should jump on the opportunity to do so. Rob Marlowe (soon to be former) Deputy Mayor
Michael Malterer April 05, 2013 at 12:35 PM
It's always nice to hear things like "We find your utility to be very well-run, very efficient." I'm glad that Mr. Marlowe brought up the land use code because it is in desperate need of an overhaul. We need to be more business friendly. We shouldn't be fighting with businesses that are trying to bring good paying jobs to our city. It's also nice to see that the money set aside for a community policing program.
JOHN GILLISS April 05, 2013 at 12:52 PM
It amazes me when this amount of money can be "FOUND"!!! Who lost it?? Many decisions have been made because of no funding, when in fact it now appears there were funds. Lets use this money to make the city better, and more aware of the true fiscal condition.
Rob Marlowe April 05, 2013 at 01:25 PM
John, The issue was that, faced with a horrible set of financial projections, we started exploring every possible option we could find. John Schneiger and Doug Haag insisted that we make sure anything we did was legal and it took a six month study to identify the best way to legally transfer funds from the utility to the general fund. We didn't have a mechanism to legally use the money in the utility funds last summer. We do now. The time and cost of doing the study so that we could do things right was money well spent.
Jon Tietz April 05, 2013 at 06:05 PM
A decision like this is part of what I talked about at the candidate forum couple of Wednesdays ago. As a municipality we need to focus on the core aspects of why people want to live in a city: Water, Sewer, Police, and Fire An excellent water utility service is one of New Port Richey's strengths and using those funds to buoy the city in a time of financial need is an excellent idea. However, it's likely that the council will use these sources of revenue as a "crutch." Just like the city council raising the city's property tax millage rate (to a historically high 9.5799) it's possible to become entrenched at that spending limit because you're not being fiscally responsible in other areas. I would like to see these funds immediately and appropriately applied to the city's debts to help us get out of the real estate snarl we've been entangled in by some of the council's current members (Mr. Langford). We can keep some of it back, sure, and spend it on necessary items like the city's multi-use trail project (which will require a $200,000 loan--let's use the money here instead). Let's certainly not squander it immediately on projects we were unable to fund this year so that next time around we'll just have to find new sources for money because we've spent it all! At some point we have to sit down and spend on the city's debt. We can't raise taxes anymore--it's impossible. Let's focus on bringing them back down.
Susan Washburn April 06, 2013 at 12:31 AM
I think we should do this: Plant a fruitful garden. That way anyone who might be hungry and need some nourishment could go to the park and partake. It would sure take a bite out of crime. http://www.takepart.com/article/2012/02/21/its-not-fairytale-seattle-build-nations-first-food-forest
Werner Rist April 06, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Thank you Mr. Tietz, a lone voice in the wilderness of tax and spend or should I say spend and tax, with suggestions that actually makes sense. We elect and expect the city council to show fiscal responsibility and shepherd the taxpayers money wisely, unlike their big brothers in Washington.
Tom S April 06, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Tragedy of the commons..
Jon Tietz April 07, 2013 at 03:47 AM
I appreciate the compliment, Mr. Rist. I've worked hard to investigate these issues and provide a way for us to change the attitudes and priorities of our city council. It starts at the local level and works its way up the chain. I would hope this common sense approach is resonating with voters in the city, and that maybe--just maybe--I can get earn the support to get it done. Hope to see you on Tuesday 7 am - 7 pm at the NPR Rec Center! I'll be there to answer any questions all day long and I'd love to meet you in person.

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