Seminole City Council weighs in on city manager’s performance

Seminole City Manager Ann Toney-Deal

SEMINOLE — Last year, the City Council was so pleased with City Manager Ann Toney-Deal’s performance they gave her an 8% salary increase.

Her performance review was more of the same this year, with council members unanimously voting Sept. 17 to give the city’s chief executive another 5% hike, increasing her annual salary to $155,108.98. The 5% is the same increase other city employees will receive this coming year.

“City Manager Deal is encouraged to build on the successes of the past five years,” Mayor Leslie Waters wrote in her performance review. “Her leadership and knowledge of city government continues to be of value and importance to the city staff, city employees, city council and the citizens of Seminole.”

Toney-Deal’s evaluation asked council members to offer rankings ranging from excellent to poor on 14 different topics, including items such as job knowledge and financial and fiscal management.

Four of the seven members of the council, including Waters and council members Thom Barnhorn, Trish Springer and Jim Quinn, gave Toney-Deal perfect scores, ranking her as “Excellent” on all 14 categories.

Council members were also pleased with how she has handled the difficulties surrounding the pandemic.

“Your creativity and adaptability was tested to the limit this year,” Barnhorn wrote. “The uncertainty that COVID has brought this year to you and your team has pushed the non-status-quo to new limits from virtual council to budget uncertainty to continuing to complete your goals on time.”

Concerns about low morale in the ranks and contention with Seminole Fire Rescue during collective bargaining negotiations did arise last year.

Council member Roger Edelman’s answer in the management and hiring of employees category shows those concerns seem to have abated.

“I have upgraded the rating in this category from previous evaluations, but remain cautiously optimistic that the communication and coordination between the city manager, directors and staff will survive the test of time,” wrote Edelman, who gave Toney-Deal an overall ranking of “Very Good.”

Council member Jim Olliver offered the same overall ranking, praising the city manager’s efforts. He did, however, offer some suggestions for the future.

“I would like it if the city manager and staff were more proactive on major initiatives like defining legislative priorities and long-term plan specifics,” he wrote.

Council members also evaluated the work of City Attorney Jay Daigneault of the Clearwater-based firm of Trask Daigneault LLP.

Much like Toney-Deal, Daigneault, whose annual retainer is $66,000, received near-perfect scores from the council.

Olliver was the only one on the council who gave Daigneault lower rankings, but the former St. Petersburg College provost emphasized he probably grades in a different way than the other council members.

“I’m just fine with the city attorney,” he said. “Even though my ratings are lower, I come from an environment where meet expectations is the expectation. That everyone is excellent.”

Council approves tax rate, budget

Council memberss voted 7-0 to adopt the fiscal year 2020-21 budget and property tax rate.

The budget includes $24.9 million in expenditures, with $19.2 million of that making up the general fund.

For the 14th consecutive year, the property tax rate will remain at 2.4793 mills, or $2.4793 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The decision was made easier by the fact that the Pinellas County property appraiser estimated the city’s total taxable property value has increased 8.87% to $1.72 billion. The hike was the fourth-highest in Pinellas County.

Therefore, maintaining the rate will still generate just over $4 million in revenue, a $251,500 increase over last year.

Starkey Road widening project

Toney-Deal reported that she had been informed by county officials that a project to widen Starkey Road from Bryan Dairy to Flamevine Avenue is tentatively scheduled to commence at the earliest in late 2021 and more than likely the first part of 2022.