MADEIRA BEACH – Doing more with less. That’s the challenge presented by City Manager Shane Crawford and finance director Vincent Tenaglia as they gave the Madeira Beach City Commission a first look at the upcoming year’s budget.
Crawford, speaking at the June 26 City Commission meeting, said the city’s income would decrease due to a forecast continued decline in property values, and a decision to modestly lower the millage tax rate. Expenses also are going to rise, due to increases in employee benefits and other costs.
At the same time, a number of capital improvement projects are expected to get under way over the next year, including a costly reconstruction of the city hall/fire station complex, storm water improvements and seawall replacements throughout the city. Financing of the projects could be helped by spending some of the city’s significant cash reserves, which an auditor said are far in excess of recommended levels.
Crawford told the commission that doing more than last year in certain areas while lowering taxes would mean a focus on increasing revenues and inventing or creating new revenue sources.
This would be accomplished in part by leaving some staff positions unfilled while increasing purchased or contracted services to fill the void left by departed employees. Also, by looking at opportunities for new revenue offered by the recreation department and an anticipated $100,000-plus from building permit revenue sharing.
Other planned capital improvements include beautification projects, resurfacing of the tennis and basketball courts, continued rehabilitation of Archibald Park, 100 percent replacement of beach walkovers, and boardwalk pilings at John’s Pass Village. All city-owned parking meters are due to be replaced with an automated system that accepts both cash and credit cards.
Crawford said drainage issues resulting from Tropical Storm Debby have made completion of the storm water project “a high priority.”
The initial budget presentation begins a series of discussions on the city’s finances, which will extend into September, when the final budget will be adopted by the commission. A detailed budget description is contained in a 150-page presentation, which is available at city hall.
Public Works to stay at marina
The commissioners agreed to tear down the public works facility at the city marina, possibly replacing it with an open air shed.
Crawford had declared the existing building to be unsafe.
“It is literally falling down and somebody is going to get hurt,” he told the commission.
Public Works employees have been relocated from the building for some time, and all maintenance of city vehicles is being done outdoors, Crawford said.
“It’s a ghost town,” he said. “We’ve been storing tools in it and that’s all.”
As to talk of moving the public works operation to become part of a new city government complex, Crawford said, “I don’t know if you want to marry (public works) up here where you may have other plans.”
Crawford pointed out the city has been slowly contracting out the sanitation department, and may not need any public works structure.
All commission members except Commissioner Nancy Hodges agreed with Crawford’s tear-down recommendation.
“I don’t think it should come down,” Hodges said. “It’s a concrete, sound building. Why couldn’t we just clean it up?”
Mayor Travis Palladeno told Hodges the cost to renovate the building would run up to $90,000, compared to about $20,000 to knock it down. And the existing building cannot accommodate the large garbage trucks in use today.
Crawford said he would get bids to demolish the Public Works building.
“We’ll get it out of here, and then decide what we can do,” he said.
Building permit move debated
A recommendation by Crawford to move the building permit and inspection process from Treasure Island to South Pasadena, with Madeira Beach handling the initial permits, was not acted on by the commission.
Crawford said a more favorable fee-sharing arrangement with South Pasadena could mean an additional $50,000 in permitting fee revenue for Madeira Beach. Palladeno and Commissioner Terry Lister agreed with the move.
Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde were concerned that former Treasure Island building official Neal Schwartz had taken that position in South Pasadena. Oakley said Schwartz had had problems dealing with Madeira Beach residents in the past Vander Velde said, “He created a lot of problems with a lot of residents here.”
Crawford said he had discussed the issues of the past with Schwartz.
“I took his comment at face value, that he would do whatever it takes to make this work,” Crawford said.
Vander Velde said she wanted “a point by point comparison” of the costs and benefits of the various alternatives for handling permitting and inspections. The three choices would be going to South Pasadena, or leaving it at Treasure Island, where an outside firm has now been hired to do that job, or doing the entire process at Madeira Beach.
The commission scheduled a special workshop dedicated wholly to the building permit issue, prior to the Tuesday, July 10 commission meeting.