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Public input sought at Saturday budget meeting

By Staff | Sep 2, 2009

It might not stir the most raucous debates, but the City of Sanibel’s annual public budget hearing – scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 5 at 9 a.m. at MacKenzie Hall – is certainly one of the most important sessions of all council gatherings on the calendar.

On July 28, the City Council unanimously approved the 2010 draft year budget at $43,173,956. Among the highlights of the document include property taxes being reduced 2.5 percent, total debt reduced by approximately $6.2 million and $1.6 million to be invested in capital improvements.

The draft budget is funded by a millage rate of 2.2808, which is .0599 mills – or 2.5 percent – less than the current rolled-back rate. The rolled-back rate is the rate that will result in the same amount of tax being collected as in the prior year, adjusted for new construction projects.

According to City Manager Judie Zimomra, the proposed budget was drafted based upon several assumptions. They include the city staff continuing to reconfigure their operations to work within reduced resources, adhering to a strict fiscal discipline and that there has been no indication for economic recovery or turnaround.

“Our long term viability and property values are tied to our core quality of life services,” the 35-page report stated. “In recognition of current economic conditions, the FY 2010 draft budget has been prepared anticipating decreasing revenues.”

The proposed FY 2010 budget includes a nearly $1.5 million – or four percent – reduction in operating expenses, from the current $33,935,639 to an introduced figure totaling $32,561,713.

An additional $50,000 to be allocated to the city’s Sewer Fund Reserve for disasters while Sanibel Recreation Center classes will be expanded from 18 to 44.

City staff salaries will remain nearly identical for the second consecutive year while the number of full time employees have been reduced from 141 to 126.

In addition, city staff has renegotiated 28 existing contracts for services to lower rates.

“The FY10 draft budget is greater than the FY09 adopted budget due to greater projected beginning fund balances in FY10 ($16,544,494) than in FY09 ($13,163,614),” Zimomra’s July 21 memorandum to the City Council stated.

Since their July meeting, three changes to the FY10 budget have been adjusted and now indicate a decrease to the proposed budget by $306,956. These include:

Ballfield Maintenance Fund – Interlocal governmental revenues have been reduced by $129,500; transfers from the General Fund have been reduced by $59,110; expenditures have been reduced by $174,272. These changes are the result of ongoing negotiations with Lee County and Lee County School Board.

Capital Acquisition Fund – Decreased end-user computer upgrade expenditures by $19,500; decreased transfer from General Fund by $19,500.

Beach Parking Fund/General Fund – Method change by TDC from indirect cost reimbursement to direct cost reimbursement decreased General Fund revenue by $94,779; decreased General Fund expenditures by $74,465; decreased Sewer Fund expenditures by $32,027. Also, $94,779 of Beach Parking expenditures were moved from indirect cost to personnel services.

After Saturday’s meeting, a second and final public hearing on the budget will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 15 beginning at 5:01 p.m.