On January 8, City Manager Joe Gerrity addressed the commission prior to goal setting discussions and said, “I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I want you to know that we have some challenges ahead. We need to think about things in a different way.”
Finance Director Patti Clifford, painted another bleak picture in her presentation saying, “If General Fund revenue and expenses remain the same, for fiscal year 2013-2014, we are beginning the new Fiscal Year with a $1,243,000 deficit.” Clifford noted that she is aware revenue and expenses will not remain the same.
During the last budget year, commissioners dipped into the reserves, lowering the reserve funding level as a percent of expenditures below the 25% benchmark to 20%. According to Clifford, this is the first time in her eight years with the city that reserves have been lower than the 25%. The 25% benchmark for reserves is one indicator used to determine the financial health of a city.
Commissioner Corbett indicated his goal was for pension reform. The commission is moving in the direction of pension reform with an attorney in place and moving foward with a Request for Proposals for actuarial services. The process of pension reform is a slow process according to Clifford, and no savings will be reflected in the 2013-2014 budget.
Commissioner Boner’s goal focused on cost savings by sharing resources, saying “Island wide police and fire; maybe.” He discussed combining inspection services or personnel, and comparing contract maintenance versus in house maintenance,and buying versus leasing. “I want to share everything we can to save money by sharing.”
Mayor Pelican indicated one of her goals was the expansion of the Martin Luther King Center bathrooms. According to Pelican, “This issue is way overdue.” The city has budgeted $55,000 for the project, but indications are the costs will exceed the budgeted amount. Along with additional bathrooms, Pelican wishes to focus on pension reforms.
Pelican joins Commissioner Gass, by requesting a restrictive line item to place funds such as the annual Ocean Highway and Port Authority contributions to pay down debt. Clifford suggested the discussion be delayed until the city is back to the 25% reserve level. “Until we are back at that level, there is no reason to restrict or hinder any funds,” says Clifford.
Identifying who is on and who is off the city sewer systems is a goal for Commissioner Gass. “It is time to start finding out with the goal to have everybody to have the opportunity to connect,” according to Gass. Determining who is connected and who is not would involved an expensive process of going through every street in the city, said Gerrity. Attorney Bach remarked that a 1985 state law requires that if city sewer is available, property owners must connect. Bach further stated that there are some county individuals with septic tanks who could be impacted since city sewer runs close to their property.
Those not connected to the city sewer face costs ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 or $15,000.00 depending upon property. These costs do not include impact fees or connection charges. Some cities incentivise property owners to connect. “Not a popular decision [to require connections] because there are a lot of folks who just can’t afford to do that,” says Bach. But Gass continues to voice her concern saying, “We need to begin and it will be very long and a lot of decisions will have to be made and some are not very pretty or favorable but it is just what we have to do.” Another goal is storm water; “Make the plan, work the plan, and have the project under control,” says Gass. Her final proposed goal is to have independent Fire and Emergency Management Services for Amelia Island.
Commissioner Filkoff wishes to continue on a path to try to preserve the health of our local economy. Whatever we need to do to maintain historic downtown and beaches which have been identified as important to our communities economy is a priority. Focusing on this goal, requires that we look at all fees and processes involved in bringing in new business. Filkoff wants to see the city become more effective with current use of technology that enables people to do their jobs more easily. She expressed a desire to continue to develop internal processes that began several years ago to make it easier for the community to be deal with the city.
In addition Commissioner Filkoff wishes to explore a “Fire Fee” for the community, and determine what is fair. She wishes to isolate fire revenue and expenses away from the General Fund.
Editor’s Note: The Fernandina Observer will post department and enterprise fund presentations presented at the City Commission Goals workshop in future posts.
January 9, 2013 4:10 p.m.