SEMINOLE — The city of Seminole will be debt-free by September, auditor Peter Schatzel, a partner in the accounting firm Wells, Houser & Schatzel, P.A., told the city council at its April 23 meeting.
During his presentation on the city’s financial audit and comprehensive financial report for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2018, he said that the city had reduced its long-term debt by $938,000 last year. Seminole will make its final payment of $933,000 on its bonded debt this September, “at which point in time the city is going to be debt-free,” he said.
He added, “You can take pride in the fact that the city of Seminole is going to be debt-free.”
Mayor Leslie Waters said, “That has a lot to do with over the decades a conservative approach to taxpayers’ money and certainly the management of the city. The two city managers that we’ve had and the city councilors over the years, this is a salute to them all.”
In an email, City Manager Ann Toney-Deal wrote that the city will be debt-free as of Sept. 30 after repaying $5.3 million in bonds over five years. The funds used to pay off the debt came from the Penny for Pinellas 1-percent sales tax revenues.
“The debt was issued in 2014 to fund renovations to the community building at City Park, which is home to the Parkview Room and the Seminole Historical Society, and to favorably refinance 2009 debt that was used for the construction of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and Public Works Administration Building,” she wrote.
Schatzel said the city “continues to be in very stable financial condition. That has not changed at all.”
At the end of fiscal year 2018, there was a balance of approximately $6.38 million in the city’s general funds, representing 4.6 months of Seminole’s total operating expenses. This amount is “slightly less” than 2017, when the fiscal year ended with 5.1 months of operating expenses in reserve, he said.
Still, he said, the amount on reserve at the end of 2018 “is a very safe amount,” he said. “It’s not excessive.”
The city’s liquid assets at the end of fiscal year 2018 totaled $16.1 million, Schatzel said. This was an increase over the prior year, which ended with $14.4 million in liquid assets.
Additionally, the firefighters pension fund increased in value by $1.25 million last year and is currently 89.3 percent funded. The prior year saw a $1.93 million increase to the fund, but it was only 87.7 percent funded, he said.
“The reason the increase was not quite as much [this year] had to do with the fact that there wasn’t as much growth in the city’s pension investments,” he said.
The amount of pension liability measured at $4.54 million, “definitely an improvement” over the previous year, which was just slightly over $5 million, Schatzel said.
He also said that the city invested $1.5 million in capital assets in fiscal year 2018. This included $453,000 to replace generators at Seminole City Hall, Fire Stations 30 and 21, and at the community building in Seminole City Park. Other expenses included the advance payment for a new heavy-duty rescue vehicle for Seminole Fire Rescue and road surfacing projects.
Toney-Deal said “the audit’s success is attributable to [the] financial leadership [of Allison Broiher, finance director,] and the department heads managing their respective budgets” to carry out the policies established by the city council.
She told the council, “You set the policy and you tell us how you want the city to operate and we work within the confines of what you want us to do. It’s a perfect picture of what government and budgeting should be when you’re doing fund management for your citizens.”