Sunday, December 21st, 2014

Krise-O-Meter

Treat Codes Compliance Assistance Department as a budget priority

"As mayor, I will ... support staff and treating our Codes Compliance Assistance Department as a budget priority. As we continue to emerge from the economic downturn and related budget cuts, we must look to restore funding to the areas that were hit the hardest, and that includes Codes."


Updates

City Council approves mayor’s budget for three more officers

Rick Kriseman has moved forward with plans to enforce the rules in St. Petersburg, and the city council has agreed to spend it.

The city has seen its Codes Compliance Assistance Department shrink since 2007, when Mayor Rick Baker cut the staff by about 25 percent, including getting rid of eight of the city's 30 codes inspectors. That means 22 compliance officers routinely handle about 7,000 code violations cases throughout the city, ranging from yard maintenance to abandoned homes (a problem that really increased during Mayor Bill Foster's term, which coincided with the recession).

Kriseman promised to increase the number of officers as soon as possible, proposing three more officers in his fiscal year 2015 budget. The city council approved a version of his proposed budget on Sept. 18, 2014, including more than $160,000 to hire three more codes inspectors. The budget took effect at the start of the fiscal year in October.

The city will have 25 inspectors now, which is still down from when Baker was in office but are the first new positions for that purpose since the 2007 cuts.

Kriseman said he would add codes compliance inspectors to make up for the losses during the recession. The cuts under Baker happened before the recession kicked in, but the result is the same: The new mayor said he would make codes a budget priority and he has, increasing funding to hire more inspectors.

We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

PolitiFact Florida, "Kriseman want to expand number of inspectors in 2015," June 12, 2014

StPete.org, "Fiscal Year 2015 Adopted Budget (Rough)," accessed Nov. 24, 2014

Interview with Benjamin Kirby, mayor's communications director, Nov. 24, 2014

Kriseman want to expand number of inspectors in 2015

As part of his mayoral campaign, Rick Kriseman promised to help clean up St. Petersburg.

The city's Codes Compliance Assistance Department is a big part of that. Its workers  keep tabs on everything from improper signage to yard maintenance to reporting abandoned housing so it can be secured. Their work became especially difficult during Bill Foster's mayoral tenure because the recession left more homes vacant and some owners indifferent about the condition of their properties.

A big hit to the department occurred in 2007, when then Mayor Rick Baker reduced staff by roughly 25 percent, eliminating eight of 30 code inspectors, as well as two technicians and two supervisors.

The department's remaining 22 compliance officers are currently handling about 7,000 code violations cases across the city.

Kriseman plans to add three more officers to the ranks in his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, said city spokesman Ben Kirby. If approved, it would be the first expansion since Baker's cuts seven years ago.

Kriseman is slated to give his budget to the City Council by July 1. The council must pass a budget by Sept. 18, ahead of the fiscal year beginning in October.

Kriseman plans to add positions and funding to the codes department, but because it's only a proposal for now, we rate this promise In The Works.

Sources:

Tampa Bay Times, "St. Petersburg sign sleuth takes down illegal ads, rakes in fines," Aug. 29, 2005

Tampa Bay Times, "As vacant houses increase in St. Petersburg, so do worries, crime," July 3, 2009

Tampa Bay Times, "Code cuts: Ugly News?" Aug. 12, 2007, accessed via Nexis June 10, 2014

Tampa Bay Times, "Working its way out of a code conundrum," June 7, 2006, accessed via Nexis June 10, 2014

Interview with Benjamin Kirby, mayor's communications director, June 9-12, 2014