At the Tuesday, September 20, 2016 Gulfport City Council meeting, we adopted the FY 2017 Gulfport Operating Budget. We started budget discussions in April 2016, with comments and ideas from residents, recommendation from City Council members, and holding a Budget Workshop (at my request) in August 2016.
The budget is robust at 276 pages. I extracted 11 key items (see photos at bottom of page) that will provide you with key items that I feel illustrate what we have to work with, key priorities, budget challenges and our Capital Improvement Plans. You can review the entire budget here: http://mygulfport.us/fiscal-year-2017-city-of-gulfport-adopted-budget/ .
We will start 2018 budget discussions as early as January 2017. It is my opinion that we need to challenge certain budget areas, in an attempt to keep our excellent quality service level, while still lowering costs. I will be compiling my list of budget items I think need work, and look forward to your input, ideas and comments as well. Here are some preliminary areas of interest I would like to explore:
I introduced this past summer the need to develop and fund resources specific to major weather events. This includes minimizing and/or preventing sewer discharges onto Gulfport roads and Boca Ciega Bay. I am very interested in the tanker/vac truck that many Pinellas County municipalities already use to prevent sewage discharges, as well as determining if we could bebetter serviced by Pinellas County v. the City of St. Petersburg (e.g., sewer and water).
I introduced this past summer and will heavily advocate for a "homeowner lateral swewer pipes improvement program." My job and goal is to seek funding for Gulfport by working with legislators in Tallahassee and Pinellas Commissioners.
I also want us to consider the value of oyster domes for Clam Bayou, a means to cleaning the water and help in restoring the health of the bayou.
With our new Shore Blvd/Beach Parking Improvement Program, we currently experience horrendous flooding along Shore Blvdthat needs attention. With the current improvements in the area, vicinity to the Historical Gulfport Casino, the impending beach re-nourishment project, the volleyball courts and residents/businesses along Shore, we must make this a serious Gulfport priority. I made this proposal at City Council this year.
Another challenge for Guflport is the deterioating conditions of some of our outdoor artwork.
One major funding challenge are employee benefits (e.g., insurance, health plans, etc.). I think we can keep our excellent level of service to employees, while shopping around for competive rates.
We also need to do all we can tosupport and keep our superior Police and Fire programs well-funded with access to the latest equipment and technologies. Our population is growing, and with that comes more challenges to our Safety programs.
There may be a need to increase employee headcount, such as in Code Enforcement (TBD).
I made myself very clear this past summer that Gulfport needs to develop a cost-sharing process with the organizations of numerous events that take place in Gulfport annually. In many instances, city employee time, services and resources are financially booked as "in-kind services."
I will continue to advocate (NOTE: we have a good approach right now) for alley improvements and street paving.
We must keep a very close eye on our ongoingsewer infrastucturte improvement program. Perhaps consider where certain work can be advanced.
It is likely that we will again be looking at designs for a new or renovated Gulfport Senior Center.
I have repeated countless times that the City of St. Petersburg 25% surcharge (estimate cost to Gulfport residents is $725,000) to be assessed against the City of Gulfport will be financially challenging.
I will continue advocating for solar energy (longer term item) for city buildings, more environmentally-friendly green spaces (e.g., rain gardens), and making sure we use more recyled building materials where we can.