BELLEAIR BLUFFS — An audit report has found the city’s finances to be in good condition.
John Houser of the audit firm Wells, Houser and Schatzel, P.A. presented a summary of the city’s annual Comprehensive Financial Report at the May 20 city commission meeting.
Houser said the city has had a large infusion of cash over the past year, available to use for its needs, due to the sale of the old fire station and a doubling of the public service tax from 5 percent to 10 percent. Money from the public service tax rise is committed to be used for road improvements, Houser pointed out.
Among the financial highlights:
• A key measurement shows that the city’s net position, which is assets minus liabilities, increased in 2018 versus 2017. This is especially significant for the unrestricted funds, which is the money the city can appropriate for budgetary purposes. Those funds increased by about $850,000, to nearly $2 million. This was due primarily to the sale of the old fire station.
• The city’s reserve fund has been increasing for the past several years, and they now have enough money to operate for about a year with no income. The reserves had been down to around five months’ expenses after the buyout of the former firefighters’ pension fund in 2013. But Houser said the reserves “have been creeping up” since then and are now at the levels where they were before the buyout transaction. Six to nine months’ reserves are typical for other cities of Belleair Bluffs size, Houser said.
• The city’s 2018 budget revenues were $93,000 more than anticipated, while expenses were $246,000 less than expected.
“That is a very positive budget variance, revenue versus expenses,” Houser said.
City Administrator Debra Sullivan said the city is “exactly on the improvement trend that we meant to be on going forward, to get us back up to where we were 10 years ago (before the firefighters’ buyout). We’re doing a really good job with that.”
Sullivan said the increased revenue from the public service tax is especially needed for critical road and drainage improvement projects, where grant money was used in the past, but will no longer be available.
City staff members praised
City Clerk Alexis Silcox got several rounds of applause from commission members while being recognized for completing two years of service with the city.
Mayor Chris Arbutine said Silcox had accomplished a lot in her short time with the city, citing her especially “for getting back hurricane money from FEMA (over $200,000) way before everybody else and people are calling you from all over trying to find out how you did it.”
Arbutine said Silcox “does things on her own initiative, under Debra (Sullivan)’s guidance.”
Sullivan said Silcox has been “a great, absolutely fabulous employee.”
Public Works Supervisor Russ Schmader, hired last year, also got a share of the praise. Sullivan said Schmader gets projects done “right away.”
“After just coming here, and with the contacts he has, every time I turn around, another thing’s done. I’m super impressed,” Sullivan said.
“Good job,” said Commissioner Joseph Barkley.
In other news
David Berolzheimer, 84, owner of the Plaza 100 Shops, died May 17.
Services will be held Saturday, June 1, 1 p.m., at Anona United Methodist Church, 13233 Indian Rocks Road.
Berolzheimer “was very well known and respected in Belleair Bluffs,” said Bonnie Trembulak, president of the Bluffs Business Association.
Serenity Funeral Home of Largo is handling the service arrangements.