SEMINOLE — Entering the second month of a new fiscal year, the City Council approved one last batch of expenditures from the previous annual budget.
At a Nov. 2 meeting, the council approved almost $1.6 million in boosts to the 2020-21 city budget, including a $500,000 payment into the city firefighters’ pension fund.
The pension payment — which pares the level of unfunded liability to the firefighters’ pension fund — follows the receipt of “higher than anticipated revenue” from state grant funding and other sources. The new level of unfunded liability hadn’t yet been calculated, but it wasn’t expected to be anything worrisome, and some unfunded liability is considered fairly standard in municipal budgeting.
“I do think the $500,000 is going to have a very significant (positive) impact,” city Finance Director Allison Broihier said.
Elsewhere among the latest expenditures: a nearly $783,000 spending increase to cover the shift of county funding for capital costs associated with the city fire department from the general fund to the city Finance Department’s Capital Improvement Plan.
And tapping various sources, almost $112,000 in additional citywide expenditures was added for outlays on technology, materials and processes used pandemic-response operations.
The batch of late-breaking spending approvals won’t affect the city tax rate, as each of the moves tapped existing revenue sources. What’s more, City Manager Ann Toney-Deal noted that the 2021-2022 city budget — dating from Oct. 1 — represents the 15th straight year Seminole has managed to avoid raising city tax rates.
The 2020-2021 expenditure boosts follow a similar budget amendment — for $2.19 million in outlays — approved in May. Together, the spending amendments bring total city expenditures to $28.7 million during the past fiscal year.
Rec review: Once more, with feeling
In other business, the council discussed — for a third time — a plan to raise non-resident facility and program recreation fees, as recommended by the city’s Recreation Advisory Board and initially reviewed by the council on Oct. 12. The proposed hikes represent the city’s first recreation fee increases since 2017 and would take effect in 2022.
The council has been split by sentiment among some members that the fees should be made even higher for non-residents and the view by other council members that doing so would prompt a loss of revenue from non-resident sources.
In the end, consensus was hammered out roughly approximating the initial recommendations by city recreation staff.
“We have to be careful we’re not micro-managing the way they do their job,” Mayor Leslie Waters said.
“The staff has done a phenomenal job,” acknowledged council member Jim Olliver, who pressed most vocally for still-higher rec program fees. “(But) we’re the policy-makers.”
One proposal by Olliver that did stick was the suggestion to monitor cost-reimbursement levels among the various rec programs on a quarterly basis.
“The City Council is the unit where the buck stops (and) this dialogue is what government is about,” council member Chris Burke said.
Elected officials to get raises
Also at the meeting, council members gave final approval — in a 5-1 vote — to salary hikes for the mayor and council. The move, first aired at a Oct. 12 council meeting, establishes automatic annual pay increases for the mayor and council members equal to the same percentage salary increases provided to Seminole general employees.
Council member Trish Springer, who opposed the measure, said she didn’t think it was fair the elected officials will be guaranteed full salary increases while city workers must pass annual performance reviews for theirs.
The council’s next regular meeting is set for Nov. 16, at council chambers in City Hall.