It is Not a Done Deal
We have not voted to build it. We’ve only voted to complete the design work. After almost 2 years of public input sessions, review by a number of citizen advisory committees, and multiple public meetings, we felt it was important to complete what we started. But there is another reason to complete the design work and make the project “shovel ready” –- stimulus grant funding. As the federal government is continuing their work on Cares Act money, they are also discussing infrastructure money. Should this happen, governments that apply must have projects that are “shovel ready”. Setting our city up for success requires leadership and should this infrastructure funding become available, we will be ready!
Funding for this project is coming from Penny for Pinellas, the Building Fund, the Utility Fund, and the General Fund. Penny for Pinellas is a voter approved sales tax that can only be spent on infrastructure projects. One third of this funding is paid for by tourism. No property tax goes to support this fund.
The Building Fund & the Utility Fund are supported by user fees. Both of these departments are contributing to this project because they will have customer service offices in the new City Hall. No property tax goes to support these funds either.
The only fund contributing to this project that is supported by property tax is the General Fund. The amount this fund is contributing equals 1% of the total project cost.
So to be very clear, no millage rate increase will be needed to fund this project. .
Why Is It Needed?
Regarding the need for the project itself, the city did a Facility Assessment Study back in 2000. We subsequently hired an outside consultant to update that study in both 2009 & 2012. It was determined that several of our facilities needed replacement, including our Municipal Services Building. Even though the MSB Building was labeled as functionally obsolete, we proceeded to replace other, more important facilities like our Community Center, the Michigan Blvd Fire Station, & the Emergency Operations Center, to name a few.
In 2018, the Sherriff’s office moved out of our Municipal Services Building because they refused to work in what they classified as a “sick building”. Subsequently, we began moving our employees to buildings spread across the city, some of which we owned & some of which we had to spend taxpayer money to lease, so they could work in a safe environment. And now, the building has been demolished.
We Will Move Forward With Caution
Because of the effects of the pandemic on our economy, we know our budget will be tight in the next few years. Therefore, we will be meeting quarterly, starting in January, to review key economic indicators, trends in revenues, and where we are with expenses. This will allow us to act immediately if further cuts are warranted. During this process, we’ll examine the affordability of doing any major project, including the new City Hall. Our staff will need to publically justify what we can afford and input from our Board of Finance, along with the you, our residents will be included. We will not move forward on this project until we are certain we can afford it.
My career in Economic Forecasting came into play when we went through the worst recession since the Great Depression. And it will come into play now, as we enter into a completely different type of economy. What we are facing in the future is unlike other economic downturns and shouldn’t be treated as such. Experience in this field matters!
Anyone telling you anything different isn’t telling you the truth. Don’t take my word for it, call all of your City Commissioners and ask them what they voted for.