DUNEDIN – The Dunedin City Commission voted 4-1 Sept. 22 to approve the 2011-2012 budget of $79.79 million and the final 3.3817 millage rate.
The tax rate is an actual 5 percent reduction in rate, down from 3.5579. This is actually 7.65 percent less than the 2011 “rolled-back rate” of 3.6662, which is the rate the city would have had to set to earn the same amount this upcoming year as it did this past year in property tax revenue.
At the Sept. 8 meeting and at the first reading of the budget, the commission broke the budget votes into three sections, one being on the millage rate. City Finance Director Jeff Yates said that tapping into some of the city’s healthy reserves helped so the city did not have to raise the millage rate. The goal is to have 15 percent in reserves, but the city had more than 30 percent. This is not a bad thing, he said, but staff had decided that given its priorities of keeping taxes low, maintaining services, and providing more money to city employees were good reasons to tap into some of the excess reserves.
“It is a small millage rate reduction in dollars, but it is still real,” said Mayor Dave Eggers. “There are a lot of other organizations that make up your total millage rate, and a lot of them are increasing their taxes. So this tries to offset some of that. I don’t think anyone should be paying more taxes this year. In fact I think we should be doing everything we can to cut taxes. I think it sends a signal to our residents and staff.”
The commission had voted unanimously Sept. 8 on setting the final millage rate at 3.3817.
Another section the commission voted on separately at the Sept. 8 meeting was adopting a pay plan for fiscal year 2012 so its employees could finally have extra compensation. It also includes reducing staff by eight full-time positions, but only one of those is a layoff. The others are by attrition. This will result in $207,000 savings each year, staff said.
The pay plan, as discussed at the first reading on Sept. 8, includes a $1,000 bonus for all general employees except for fire personnel, as their contracts are still in negotiations and will be handled separately.
There also will be several employee increases, which will cost about $18,000, and that is due to department reorganization, added responsibilities and equity issues, said Nancy Duggan, human resources director. This plan also allows for $10,000 for known audits. City employees also will receive a 1 percent cola, or cost-of-living adjustment.
To qualify for the bonus and cola, employees will have to have worked for the city for at least a year as of Oct. 1, Duggan said.
A city resident spoke to the commission, saying he was angry that the city hasn’t done more to compensate its employees. He said a $1,000 bonus was “like a slap in the face.” There are now fewer employees doing more work, he said, and they deserve more.
“I think that most of the commission has said along the way that we are extremely proud of the work that our employees have done through the years,” Eggers said. “And this year was no different. And I think there was some discussion early on about a higher [cost of living allowance]. We had some additional revenues that we were counting on. Significant revenues. But it’s changed. That went away. … And we’ve had to back off on some of those wants and needs.”
But in an economy where most governments and businesses are having to cut back and are unable to give any kind of extra compensation, the city wanted to at least do something to help, Eggers said.
The commission voted unanimously to approve this part of the budget at the Sept. 8 meeting.
The last part of the budget that the commission discussed and voted on was the budget resolution itself. Some highlights of the $79.79 million budget include a 1.25 percent decrease to the general fund; the capital improvement plan includes a one-time use of $1.6 million of reserves, $1.5 million to replace Fire Station 61, and an additional $99,752 for information technology infrastructure. There were also additional fees for library fines, moved from $0.15 a day to $0.20 a day.
Commissioner Julie Scales said in the Sept. 8 meeting that she is concerned with several items in the budget and does not like the process of them. She felt she was caught by surprise by certain items, such as $500,000 budgeted for planning and development of government center. Therefore, she voted against the budget at both the Sept. 8 and Sept. 22 meetings.
Going along with the budget, the commission approved foregoing a previously recommended increase in the solid waste and water/wastewater rates of 2.75 percent. There was, however, a $1.40/month increase to the stormwater rate.
This rate increase was necessary, said Doug Hutchens, public works director, because this will allow for acceleration of critical stormwater projects. Some of these projects are long overdue, such as the Orangewood Outfall Project drainage plan that goes back to 1980, Hutchens said. There are some major areas in Dunedin with severe stormwater issues, so this increase will help finally be able to complete these projects.
Final budget adjustments made
The City Commission on Sept. 8 made a final budget amendment to the 2011 budget, resulting in a $5,000 total increase.
The following changes were made:
• $116,000 was appropriated to fleet repair and maintenance cost that was taken from fleet reserves to cover anticipated maintenance costs to the end of the year.
• $5,000 of additional contributions was given from Friends of the Library
• $578,899 was re-appropriated from various stormwater capital project funds for contingency costs for the Cedar Creek filter boxes, fleet site improvements, Lake Paloma filter box, and the Orangewood Outfall drainage project.
• $11,139 was re-appropriated for the carry-forward of the EECBG Stimulus LED Energy Efficiency Project.