By MARC VALERO

Staff Writer

AVON PARK — Monday’s City Council meeting delved into the fine points of the city’s tentative budget. The discussion started with Councilwoman Maria Sutherland saying the budget discussion may last until midnight.

The City Council did agree that a workshop or special meeting was needed to review the budget, so a special meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. this Thursday.

Deputy Mayor Jim Barnard said the budget numbers and the suggested listing of cuts didn’t make any sense. Some of the items were already cut, while others were still in the budget.

“I was very confused and I spent two days going through all this and the previous budget and it just didn’t match,” he said.

Sutherland said the the latest proposed budget differs by $1.3 million from the budget proposed at the workshops.

For example, the new budget includes a 3% pay increase for employees, she said, which wasn’t on the old proposed budget.

“You are asking us to approve the budget blindly,” Sutherland said.

Finance Director Rick Helms noted a few factors impacting the budget:

- 0.03% growth in the tax base.

- Projected 10% increase in the health insurance.

- Projected 10% increase in property, liability and workers’ compensation.

- Consumer Price Index for all items, less food and energy, rose 2.2% in the past year ending in July.

- Union contract step increase 3%.

- Negotiations with firefighters union.

Helms prepared a listing of items, totaling $840,000, that would have to be removed from the budget so it could be balanced without using reserves. The list included cutting some positions, reducing sidewalk and curb replacements, eliminating payroll software, cutting the increase to parks and eliminating finance and accounting software.

The City Council by a unanimous vote approved keeping the property tax rate at .3 mills. Then the City Council voted 4-1 to approve the first readings of the 2019-20 budget resolution and ordinance. Councilman Stanley Spurlock vote “no.”

Sutherland said Tuesday without a copy of the budget from the workshop one couldn’t compare it with the latest proposed budget.

“The wastewater treatment plant, for example, during the workshop was just over $500,000 in new equipment and then last night it was $2.1 million,” she said. “That is why I had put so much emphasis on it. That was the biggest expense in the budget.”

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