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Financial health key to City of Sanibel’s success

By Staff | May 5, 2010

During the April 20 council session, City Manager Judie Zimomra informed local leaders what steps she and her staff members have made to ensure the city’s financial health, both in the current economic crisis and in projections for future years.

During her report, Zimomra presented the council with the quarterly financial report, prepared by the city’s Finance Director Sylvia Edwards, a five-year summary of overall revenues, a two-year summary of revenues derived from the Sanibel Recreation Center and a six-year summary of parking revenues.

“Any time that you do a financial analysis, you look for the best available options,” said Edwards. “You have to look for ways to reduce your debt and find ways to make your money work for you. These days, it’s not business as usual, so we’ve tried to find ways to improve our financial planning.”

In addition, Zimomra introduced her staff recommendation for non-union employee furloughs and a pay reduction for recreation aides and lifeguards employed on a part-time basis.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment achieved by Edwards and her fellow finance staffers, Zimomra noted, was the reduction in annual debt service payments, which will save the city $475,457 each year beginning in FY 2011. Overall, that will mean a savings of $568,488, plus interest, over the life of the debts.

“We are trying to remain prudent and stay ahead of the curve,” Zimomra said last week. “What we have done is positioned ourselves properly so that we won’t hit rock bottom.”

The five debts the city is paying off early includes a $3.1 million revenue bond, an $88,817 capital lease and three notes, collectively totaling $2,962,000.

During the same session, councilors approved three furlough days for the city’s 30 non-union employees, which will save an additional $26,500 in the current fiscal year. Those employees effected by the requirement must take three unpaid days off between now and Sept. 30. The move does not effect union employees or police personnel.

“We’re in a constriction mode,” said Zimomra. “This is the latest in a series of adjustments. We’re down 26 employees from our highest staff count a few years ago. Like everyone, we’re trying to do more with less.”

Additionally, the city approved a pay reduction for part-time lifeguards and recreation aides employed at the Sanibel Recreation Center. The pay rate now ranges between $11.05 and $14.67 per hour.

By comparison, similar positions for City of Cape Coral employees receive $8 to $10 per hour, and the City of Bonita Springs employees receive between $8.81 and $9.74 per hour.

Also included in Zimomra’s presentation was a policy report prepared by the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy. The seven-page analysis discusses the impact of the economic recession in the Sunshine State, and projects a timeline for recovery.

“Even if Florida employment could grow at the previous high rate of about 210,000 jobs per year, it would take until late 2014 to restore the 900,000 jobs lost,” the report predicts. “As Florida rebounds from the recession, state policymakers face two essential tasks: rebuilding a damaged economy – ideally with a greater proportion of higher paying jobs – while simultaneously meeting the needs of workers and families struggling to cope with job losses and other financial pressures.”