New Largo City Hall price up to $80 million | Largo

LARGO – The City of Largo’s 2022-2023 fiscal year budget reflects the highs and lows facing municipalities across the state of Florida.

Historic inflation rates and skyrocketing construction costs have forced cities to re-evaluate their long-term plans, but a dramatic increase in property values ​​and increased federal funding and grant opportunities have allowed them to to move forward.

The $309.7 million budget unveiled on July 1 represents an increase of nearly 18% over last year. The increase is largely due to the fact that several major construction costs are planned for the coming year, according to City Manager Henry Schubert’s budget introduction.

“Together we have made great strides in recovering from the COVID-19 crisis while working through the highest inflation rate in decades, affecting goods, services and wages,” Schubert wrote. . “We have continued to be agile as we transform our operations through unprecedented continuous rates of change, rather than simply reacting to the environment around us.”

West Bay Horizon

Rising construction costs will mean that the most expensive project in the city’s history will only get more expensive.

Horizon West Bay, Largo’s new mixed-use town hall to be built on the north side of the 400 block of West Bay Drive, is costing $80 million from $58 million.

The total estimate also includes the cost of public parking, land acquisition, operational expenses for leasing and property management of commercial space, and debt service charges for bond repayments. and loans.

A work session was scheduled for July 12 to discuss ways to possibly reduce the cost of the project. A July 15 was also scheduled where staff said they would present funding options for the price increase. (Return to TBNweekly.com this week for more on the talks.)

Other capital projects planned for the coming year include the reconstruction of a fire hall ($7 million), a new parks administration building ($5.8 million), and several road and of infrastructure.

Property tax rate

Booming real estate values ​​are helping to offset financial difficulties.

The city’s assessed values ​​rose 12.18% from $5.98 billion to just over $6.7 billion, the largest increase in more than 15 years. In 2013, assessed values ​​were estimated at $3.2 billion.

The huge increase means Schubert is suggesting that the property tax rate stay at 5.58 mills, which will generate about $36 million in revenue, about $3.8 million more than last year.

The rate could stay the same, but residents’ tax bills will likely rise further due to soaring property values. Indeed, the current rate will represent a tax increase of 11.26% for residents.

“Due to many general fund revenue streams operating at low or zero growth rates, property tax revenue accounts for over 36% of total revenue and, apart from user fees, remains the primary source. revenue on which the City has the most revenue. level of control,” Schubert wrote, adding that the additional revenue is needed to “address recruitment, retention, and maintain progress of existing programs and projects.”

Rate increases

Several rate increases are planned for the next few years to fund capital projects and increased operating costs, depending on the budget.

Fiscal 2023 will be the last year of a three-year, 10% annual increase in wastewater rates. Pending City Board approval, stormwater rates will also increase by 20% each year for the next three years to address a backlog of capital maintenance and improvements that will cost $7 million a year. year.

Federal funding

Schubert said the federal infrastructure bill passed by Congress this year will provide unprecedented grant opportunities over the next 10 years.

He said city staff have begun to explore opportunities as implementing rules are rolled out.

“We will actively pursue these grants in an effort to fund needed projects that we would not otherwise be able to afford and potentially reduce anticipated rate increases,” he said.

The city knows how much pandemic relief funding it has received from the government.

He received $12.9 million from the new American Recovery Plan Act, and he tentatively allocated those funds to numerous projects and initiatives.

Highlights include Central Park Performing Arts Center renovations ($2 million), Southwest Pool and Dive Tower rehabilitation ($5 million), job training program ($330,000) , additional funding for Affordable Housing Partners ($400,000), Community Homeless Services ($400,000) and Community Mental Health Services ($400,000).

Personal

The budget also provides for the addition of several new positions and approximately 11 full-time equivalent positions.

Among those positions is a downtown administrator “to support business coordination, design and engagement.”

Another notable change is the creation of an energy management program within the Public Works Department which will be led by a new Energy Program Administrator.

“The addition of this position will provide the framework necessary to ensure that future additions of solar and other management efforts are maintained and monitored for their performance and reported to the community and the city commission,” wrote Schubert.

A wide range of salary increases are also planned for general employees, firefighters and members of the police department.

“As one of our city’s largest employers, we believe that a balanced approach to investing in employee growth and development as well as compensation and benefits is essential. We cannot achieve our vision of being the community of choice in Tampa Bay if we are not the employer of choice, and these two key ingredients will ensure that our team members are engaged and provide the superior services upon which our community builds,” Schubert wrote.

City leaders will discuss the budget at a joint city commission and finance advisory board meeting on July 15. On July 19, the commissioners will then set a maximum property tax rate to be sent to residents.

Richard L. Militello