CRESTVIEW — City leaders have set one more workshop to finalize Crestview's 2013-14 budget and millage rate before a formal public hearing at 5 p.m. Sept. 10.
City Council members and other officials expressed frustration that the most recent proposed budget, presented during a Wednesday workshop, is just a "Band-Aid” for larger problems.
The latest proposal
Using a 5.8466 millage rate set before the budgeting process began — an increase from the current 5.5966 — department heads had started with a $538,166 deficit.
Savings were found in several areas, including furloughing all city employees for 32 hours during the fiscal year. Other suggested cost-cutting measures are as follows:
•Transferring $288,328 from the sanitation fund to the general fund.
•Firefighters voluntarily giving up $57,180 in incentive pay.
•Projecting an extra $40,000 in fees through the revised permitting fee schedule.
•Removing $33,820 in police and firefighter uniform allowances.
•Sharing the mayor's administrative assistant with the Main Street Crestview Association through a $30,000 reimbursement from the Community Redevelopment Agency.
•Eliminating the police department's $8,000 K-9 division budget.
Funding needed services
In addition to balancing the budget, savings would fund:
•$100,000 toward deferred road paving projects
•$60,000 in needed fire equipment
•$30,000 for the Crestview Public Library to purchase new books and computers
•$16,000 to move the police dispatch center from P.J. Adams Parkway to police headquarters
•$10,000 in computer upgrades
City leaders’ reactions
Because the proposed budget includes the increased millage, Councilman Tom Gordon said, "I'm not satisfied. I still think raising taxes is going after low-hanging fruit."
Council President Robyn Helt also expressed her displeasure with the ad valorem rate increase, and the failure to address problems that led to the budget woes.
"As (City Clerk Betsy Roy)so eloquently stated, it is a Band-Aid," Helt said. "The budget before us says we are inefficient and we're not doing our job."
However, Councilman Shannon Hayes contended that taxpayers would accept the .25 percent increase rather than have services curtailed or eliminated.
Ultimately, “this proposal does not fix our inherent problems," Roy said.
Helt agreed, and asked department heads to revise the budget.
Helt’s suggestion to eliminate $277,000 for city employee dependent insurance was omitted from Roy's proposed budget. Helt had said it was unfair to ask taxpayers who couldn't afford insurance for their own families to buy it for city employees' families.
Helt had also suggested eliminating four police positions funded by a soon-expiring grant. However, Police Chief Tony Taylor said the grant’s terms obligate the city to retain the officers for at least a year after it expires.
Though department heads each expressed dissatisfaction with their respective budgets, each said they would accept them, although reductions will affect their operational capabilities.
"I am willing to settle for the budget that is given to us at this time, but I want you to know that if money comes in the future, I will be back here," Library Director Jean Lewis said.
Want to go?
The final Crestview City Council budget workshop is 5 p.m. Sept. 5 at City Hall. The first public hearing on the budget and millage rate is 5 p.m. Sept. 10; votes on the budget and millage are scheduled for 5 p.m. Sept. 24. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.