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Trauma Center Funding, Summer Concerts on Proposed Chopping Block for 2013

Tallahassee’s property tax rate won’t be going up next year. On Tuesday, City Commissioners voted to keep the millage rate the same. But that means they’ll have to find other ways to cut nearly $1 million from the 2013 budget in order to cover an unexpected shortfall.

The Commission is scrambling to cut about $740,000. That’s after they thought they had a balanced budget two weeks ago. But on Friday, new figures showed property tax values—and therefore, revenues—are down. And, sales tax and revenue-sharing contributions from the state will also be less than expected. So, commissioners are considering several money-saving measures proposed by administrators. Tallahassee Mayor John Marks said many of them are hard to swallow.

“It’s tough, " he said. "It hurts, in some respects, but it also gives us what we want, and that is a balanced budget.”

The recommended cuts include closing the Lafayette Arts and Crafts Center, ending the Kleman Sizzles summer concert series and axing $75,000 in funding for the Trauma Center at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Administrators also proposed cutting the number of full-time maintenance workers at the future Cascades Park from six to four. That’s after the parks manager had originally requested nine workers. And Commisioner Mark Mustian says he can think of several more ways to save money by cutting services.

“I talked in the last budget meeting about not doing as much stuff," he says. "I mean, we can’t continue to add stuff to what we’re doing in a declining revenue situation and have the numbers work.”

Mustian says, he’d like to reexamine funding for environmental protection programs, the city communications department, car allowances for city employees and median maintenance, among other areas. 

Several commissioners expressed concern over various proposed cuts. For one, Nancy Miller and Gil Ziffer said they'd like to see the $30,000 cut for mental health courts restored.

Miller said,  “I think that it has such a potential to save money in other ways that it’s more than worth the investment that we make.”

Raoul Lavin, who directs the city's Department of Management and Administration, says the commission isn’t likely to see budget relief in the near future. In fact, soon-to-be-released communications tax revenue numbers could cause an even bigger shortfall for next year. The commission will be taking input from the public on the proposed budget at two meetings on Sept. 12 and Sept. 19 before voting on the final version. The new fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.