CRESTVIEW — Revising the city charter may again come before voters in 2014.
Council President Robyn Helt said she will bring a draft city charter, including a city administrator position, before the council early next year. A city administrator, or manager, is a council-appointed professional who would oversee the day-to-day operation of the city.
A professional administrator who oversees all departments could address redundancy and potential liabilities, and identify cost-saving, revenue generating measures, Helt said.
Helt raised the matter during a Dec. 16 meeting while city leaders mulled a proposed water rate increase. The council sometimes debates matters it has minimal expertise with, but ignores hired experts' advice, she said.
One example, Helt said, is consultant Tetratech's evaluation of Crestview's water utility billing. The company's final report recommended raising water rates, but in September, the council instead raised property taxes.
"We spent more than $100,000 for a qualified expert to tell us whether or not we should raise water rates, and now we're debating ... whether the city should raise water rates," Helt said. "That doesn't make sense to me."
"The point is, because department heads are so focused on doing day-to-day work, how much of our fiscal house is being overlooked?" she said.
Helt has supported a city manager form of government at least since 2009, when she served on a citizens advisory committee that evaluated the current 1960s city charter.
She said she is "willing to concede an elected city clerk instead of an appointed city clerk. Voters resisted a provision for an appointed clerk in a recent proposed charter. Retaining an elected city clerk was also one of the charter review committee's recommendations.
To bring public safety under the city manager's authority, the charter would have to be changed to remove the police and fire departments from the mayor's purview.
Voters have consistently rejected a city manager form of government six times since it was first voted on in 1957.
A November 2012 revised charter ballot item was rendered moot by a clerical error but was discovered too late to remove it from the printed ballot.
Though their vote was non-binding, 72 percent of registered voters — a record turnout for the charter issue — voted on the measure anyway, defeating the proposal 4,319 to 3,795.
Following the defeat, the council suggested presenting the city administrator and clerk provisions — which had generated the most opposition — and the balance of the proposed charter in a "menu" of three components.
Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said if a new charter is brought before voters, two scheduled opportunities in 2014 include the August primary and the November general election.
"Because of the length of a normal general election ballot, I normally do not recommend any municipality place anything on a November ballot," Lux said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.