A look at government action around the Gulf Coast
600 positions cut in budget
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — There's $120 million less in this year's $3.5 billion county budget, meaning 600 fewer county jobs. County agencies face more cuts next year. The approved tax rate of 10.7614 mills keeps the county's streak of 15 consecutive years of reducing the millage rate alive. The tax rate is equivalent to about $10.76 per $1,000 of property value.
New panther petition filed
COLLIER COUNTY — Three conservation organizations have jointly filed a legal petition with the federal government to protect an estimated 90 to 100 Florida panthers. The petition is similar to the one filed by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida last January and if approved would require additional federal agency permits to build or develop in an area covering three zones of about 1.1 million acres over much of Lee, Collier and Hendry counties. The Center for Biological Diversity, a national non-profit that won critical habitat protection for more than 100 million acres, is joined in the petition by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Council of Civic Associations. To see the petition, go to conservancy.org.
Big Cypress plan review
COLLIER COUNTY — A group of property owners agreed to contribute $10,000 for a Tallahassee attorney's data and analysis review of a proposed county comprehensive plan amendment. The work is needed to ultimately allow development of the new town of Big Cypress. The commission accepted the offer from the Eastern Collier Property Owners on a 5-0 vote Sept. 15. In April, in a 3-2 vote, the commission approved moving forward with a 2002 plan to allow 404,000 development credits for 45,000 acres. The plan would allow property owners to earn development credits for setting aside conservation and agricultural land or preserving Florida panther habitat. Final approval, which may not happen before 2012, requires a supermajority vote of at least 4-1.
County budget cut 8%
LEE COUNTY — The County Commission approved a $400 million operating budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year, an 8% decrease from this past year's $437 million budget. The tax rate remained unchanged at $5.43 per $1,000 of taxable property value. County Manager Karen Hawes is preparing a strategic plan for use in next year's budget process, beginning with an evaluation of county services.
CHARLOTTE COUNTY — In order to utilize the new on-line permitting system, a contractor must have a password to be registered for access to the system. The building construction services department will register contractors for their passwords. It is anticipated that the system will be up and running by late September.
Bridge bids in February
BRADENTON — The city will get $1 million in federal stimulus funds to replace the Ninth Avenue bridge, a key component in the dredging and clearing of flood-prone Wares Creek. The project is expected to go out to bid in February with a contract being awarded in March. Construction is expected to last about six months. The Florida Department of Transportation will handle the bid process, saving the city the cost involved in putting together a bid with federal stimulus money. It's the city's first allocation of transportation funds under the federal stimulus program.
Bills repeal fees
TALLAHASSEE — Two identical bills filed in the Legislature propose to return newly increased fees to their pre-Sept. 1 levels. The recent fee increase includes things like vehicle registration fees, driver license renewals and fishing licenses. Republican Rob Schenk, R-Spring Hill, filed House Bill 77, and Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, filed HB99, a version for the Democrats. Initial registration of a vehicle increased from $100 to $225, and the cost of renewing a driver's license doubled to $48. For a list of fee increases see www.flhsmv.gov/DHSMVFees.htm.
The Transportation Task Force will meet at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28 in the conference room on the 26th floor of County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. The task force was created by the Hillsborough County commission for the purpose of providing recommendations on ways to improve transportation in the county. Commissioner Ken Hagan is chairman of the task force. For additional information, contact Lucia Garsys at (813) 272-6214 or see www.hillsboroughcounty.org/transtaskforce.
The Tourist Development Council meets at 9 a.m. Monday, Sept. 28 in the BCC Chambers, Third Floor, W. Harmon Turner Building, 3301 E. Tamiami Trail, Naples.
PINELLAS COUNTY — Pinellas County now provides a one-stop shop approach for permitting services. This includes:
• Block party permits
• Special events permits
• Right-of-way utilization permits
• Platting of property
• Utilities construction in right of way
• Commercial and residential right-of-way construction
• Driveway connection to roadway
These services, formerly provided by public works, will now be available through the building and development review service department at 310 Court St., immediately north of the Pinellas County Courthouse in Clearwater. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, with 2:30 p.m. closings the first Wednesday of each month. For more information, visit the department Web site or call (727) 464-3888 during business hours.