Taxman Tales

Taxman Tales

How much does Gulfport have saved for a rainy day? How should the city charge for special events? Should the city borrow money to make repairs and changed?

 As Gulfport looks towards the coming fiscal year, the Gabber compared how Gulfport stacks up against two similar Pinellas cities: Treasure Island and Safety Harbor. All three cities have some commonalities: they all have marinas, they all have public waterfront spaces and they all have populations of less than 17,000. Here’s what we learned about each city.


Tax Rate: 4.039

Population: 12,041

Size: 3.75 square miles

Budget: $10.5 million

Amount in Reserves:

 Right now, Gulfport has 43%, or $4,561,876, of last year’s budget in reserves. The charter mandates the city keep 25% of its yearly budget in reserves, which translates to $2,526,340.

Debt: None

Special Events:

 Gulfport budgeted almost $30,000 for special events in fiscal year 2012-13. The city will spend $20,000 of that on fireworks. Starting in October of last year, the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce, the Gulfport Merchants Association and So49 all pay a $500 per-event fee. The city absorbs any expenses over that amount.

Treasure Island

Tax rate: 3.1368

Population: 6,681

Size: 3.4 square miles

Notes: The marina is not an enterprise fund; it depends on tax dollars for funding.

Budget: $16.6 million

Amount in Reserves:

  The city has general fund reserves of $4.2 million (25.3% of its annual budget)


 In November 2011, Treasure Island borrowed money for two bridges ($4,024,000 at 2.98%) and the beach trail ($1.5 million at 2.3%), according to Christ Trovato, the city’s finance director. These are bank loans, not bonds. During the last fiscal year (2011-12) the city also borrowed $553,000 at 1.31% from a state revolving loan fund to cover the non-funded portions of rebuilding the master sewer lift station.

Special Events:

 Anyone who wishes to have a special event on city property must pay a $50 fee for staff research to create a report to the commission. Event organizers must appear before the commission as it decides what to charge for city services for the event.

 “Nine times out of ten, the city does not donate any type of funds,” Recreation Director Cathy Hayduke says, “but the city may donate city staff and time.”

 Event organizers must reimburse Treasure Island for reimbursement for any costs, including labor, “so there’s no cost for the taxpayers for a private group or nonprofit to come out and use our services,” Hayduke explains. Types of services for which the city seeks reimbursement include trash, public safety, or street closures.

 The fees vary by event. For example, Treasure Island partners with the Gulf Beaches Rotary Club for its annual carnival. In return, the city receives 25% of the net profit. During the annual Chillounge, the city waives the parking fees for attendees but charges the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce for trash and public safety and for the use of the Community Center restrooms.

  “We’re working on a policy; eventually there will probably be fees,” Hayduke says “There is more and more demand for events out here. We can’t let our residents subsidize private groups that are coming out.”

Safety Harbor

Tax rate: 3.3808

Population: 16,884

Size: Five square miles


  Safety Harbor contracts with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for police services

Budget: $12.8 million

Amount in Reserves:

  Safety Harbor has 60.97% of its budget in reserves, or $7,813,800. In the fiscal year 2005–06, it had 80% but had to use some of that money for projects and to balance the budget, City Manager Matt Spoor says.


 Safety Harbor has debt totalling $11.4 million, in the form of bonds. The city pays between 2.34% and 3.3% interest on those bonds; the annual payments total $1.585 million.

Special Events:

 The city charges a rental fee of between $500 and $1000 per day for city property. Organizers also pay direct costs, such as trash removal, event-specific trash containers, and any extra officers used for the event. Organizers pay overtime for any city staff working events.
 “We’re looking at every cost because we have to,” Spoors says. The city does absorb the cost of non-overtime staff hours and setting up tables, chairs and barricades.

Comments or questions about this article? Contact Cathy Salustri at
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