Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, the City Commissioners and City Staff met yesterday in a marathon session to balance the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Budget Workshop #3 lasted more than 6 hours. At the end Finance Director Pam Barclay announced the result, “We are $1,391,123 out of balance.”
How did this happen?
The Budget Workshops began last week with a budget that balanced approved expenditure requests with expected revenues. To get to that point many requests for personnel and equipment were cut during the City Administrator’s review. Only 18 of the 54 new personnel requests were allowed. Only $5.5 Million in capital expenditures were allowed vs. $14 Million requested.
Two workshops were held last week. During Workshop #1 additional cuts were made. The biggest adjustment came during Workshop #2 when the Council agreed to restore Chief McKinley’s request for five new police officers, two civilian traffic citation specialists and several police vehicles. During Workshop #3 there were more adjustments, but in the end the additional expenditures outweighed the cuts that were found.
No one on the Council was happy with the results.
“We are building things on debt, not on growth,” said Commissioner Doug Bankson. He was referencing the need to borrow $4.6 Million and use $2.6 Million of reserves to fill part of the gap.
Commissioner Kyle Becker had similar thoughts, “There is a dire resource issue in the City.”
Kilsheimer expressed his frustration with, “People (residents) are tired of hearing “No, you can’t have what you want because…”
Barclay advised the Council that a 0.5 increase in the property tax mill levy would generate $1,263,000 in revenue.
At 7:12 PM the Budget Workshop was adjourned and a Meeting of the City Council was called to order. After several minutes of discussion the Mayor asked if anyone was going to make a motion. Clearly none of the Council members wanted to say what needed to be said. In the end Bankson made the motion to increase the mill levy by 0.5 mills.
During the public comment period Suzanne Kidd, the only tax payer present at the meeting, told the Council they were doing the right thing. “Last year I did an analysis on the effect of a o.5 mill increase,” Kidd said. “It would have cost the average, the median homeowner in Apopka $60 per year. That’s only $5 per month. People spend more than that at Starbucks.”
The Council voted unanimously to tentatively approve the increase in property taxes. The Mayor advised everyone that there would be “some heavy lifting” during the month of August, meaning that the budget was still open to review and adjustment.
The final decision on the 2017 Budget is expected to be made on September 7th at the 1:30 PM City Council meeting after public input is heard.
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that the budget approved by the City Administrator contained 12 new employees. The correct number was 18 which included 12 new firefighters.