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This week, the Sarasota city commissioners received their first peek at next year's budget, which will kick in Oct. 1. Between now and that date, they will hold more workshops and public hearings. But at the starting gate, they are about $3 million in the red. On April 14, in a break from past presentations, Finance Director John Lege first conducted a tour of last year's budget, the one that ended Sept. 30, 2013. When auditors completed their work, they returned a clean report, making no recommendations for changes or modifi- cations. The city was able to keep its "rainy day money" — the revenue stabilization fund — intact and untouched. Lege then went on to look at the current fiscal year, now about halfway finished. The com- mission tapped into the "rainy day money" for $1.1 million to avoid raising taxes during last year's budget-setting exercise. But it looks as though the city will need $1.8 million to keep the budget intact for the current year. This is due to revenues falling about $2 million short of original estimates. Using the $1.8 million to plug the current hole leaves about $1.1 million in the rainy day fund for the coming fiscal year. This year's reduced revenues are attributed to falling red- light camera fines, nearly nothing earned on investments and a communications service tax revenue decline. The State Street parking garage is expected to cost about $4 million more than its original estimate. Image courtesy City of Sarasota NEXT CITY BUDGET STARTING $3 MILLION IN THE HOLE MAYOR OPPOSES ACCEPTING AUDIT By Stan Zimmerman City Editor

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