ST. PETERSBURG — The new City Council will get its first chance to weigh in on the 2018 budget on Thursday morning — and they’re likely to bring a long list of priorities to the table.
In recent years, rising property values have kept city coffers flush, but spending has also risen. The current $540 million budget didn’t require a tax hike and passed easily last year without much of a fuss.
Under Mayor Rick Kriseman, the city hasn’t raised millage rates since he took office in 2014. Kriseman cut the millage rate by a tiny amount in 2016.
But the city did borrow $7.6 million in reserves last year to pay for sewer repairs. City officials have said they will repay the money from a bond issue early this year. Some critics, including Council member Ed Montanari, have said replenishing reserves with borrowed money is fiscally suspect.
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Today, all eight council members will gather at a committee of the whole meeting to outline their priorities for capital improvement projects. A similar workshop for the operating budget scheduled for next month.
The meeting will be the first opportunity for newly-elected council members Gina Driscoll and Brandi Gabbard to offer their fiscal vision for the city.
The city will release a preliminary budget in May, followed by more council workshops. In July, the mayor will formally present his budget to council. In September, two public hearings will precede the formal passage of the fiscal year 2019 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.
City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, starting her first year as chair, will have plenty of ideas. She wants more money for the city’s Greenhouse to help small businesses, year-round workforce programs for recent high-school graduates and a strategic plan to repair and extend sidewalk. She also wants the city to continue to support affordable housing and homelessness initiatives.