ANNA MARIA – With two commissioners absent and a proposed budget they got just that day, the city commission briefly discussed Mayor SueLynn’s budget plan last Thursday, and they saw enough to realize the city would be spending more money. million as proposed, but the changes in the way of life in this small city are being felt on both sides of the ledger.
Number one, the income that was estimated at $2.4 million for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, will more likely be more than $2.5 million due to higher assessments and a trend away from owner occupied, homesteaded homes to rentals where the inflationary forces would be unabated by the Homestead Act.
On the other side, however, SueLynn pointed out that the city will need to spend money on swales that are being ruined by beach-goers who have to park a block east of Gulf Drive due to the crowds that throng to the beaches now.
The mayor also said this is the year they need to throw off the shackles of “bare bones” management.
“In the past, it’s been the squeaky wheel that has been getting the oil and a lot of maintenance issues have been pushed aside,” SueLynn said.
She said she asked Public Works Director George McKay to estimate how many man-hours it would take for maintenance every week, and he came up with 520. She said the city currently has one fulltime employee and three part-timers, and they collectively put in 104 hours a week.
"If we have anything extraordinary happen, it takes away from the time they spend on maintenance," the mayor said.
In addition, she said the city needs to cross train more and plan for a mature staff that will be retiring over the next few years. She said most of them are over 60 years of age.
Third, the influx of new, larger homes is taking away permeable land that soaks up rainwater, and city officials are going to have to think out of the box to address flooding issues.
The attendees agreed that last week’s meeting would be an overview with two commissioners missing, so Anna Maria Finance Director Diane Percycoe talked about the budget in general terms.
She said adding .05 to the millage rate would raise $31,000 more for the city, but assessments might go up as well, as the housing market strengthens and property prices rise.
Percycoe put in $300,000 for a one-time payment from whomever installs the cell phone tower in the parking lot and a $3,000 per month on the tower for rent. She left the expenditure side blank, telling the commissioners they can address what they will spend the money on later. She also added $700 a month automatic raise on the pier rent.
On the expense side, she added 3 percent onto the wages as an across-the-board raise and three full-time positions in public works to address the mayor’s concerns at the start of the meeting. They would also add $3,000 to Diane Sacca’s salary for additional duties she has adopted.
Other expense items include $22,508 more for employee health benefits, two new computers, $20,00 for building department software, a new ATV for the Sheriff’s Office at $16,000 and a new tractor at $20,000. Money for both comes from a fund the city started years ago for those capital outlays.
In addition, officials will have to pay more for the six lots the city bought. In the past, they paid only interest on the loan, but in the coming year, they will have to include paying down the loan.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said they could count the income from the cell tower, but they should not think of where to spend it at this time. He said there might be income from paid parking, if the city chooses that path, and they should plan for income from charging to allow people to park on the rights of way. Finally, he said he does not support an increase in the millage.
The meeting adjourned with another budget work session set for Wednesday, July 24, at 6 p.m.