Katara Simmons/News-Sun Avon Park Mayor Sharon Shuler discusses the budget with council members Saturday morning in Sebring.
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published: Sunday, July 28, 2013
Pensions a worry as Avon Park begins hammering out budget
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK -- City staff began budget discussions Saturday, and City Manager Julian Deleon said the city has enough budget flexibility to avoid working "under the gun" in the upcoming fiscal year, but that pension funding is a concern.
Deleon laid out the city's expenses and budgets for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1; council member Parke Sutherland, Garrett Anderson, Terry Heston were present along with Deputy Mayor Brenda Giles and Mayor Sharon Schuler.
City staff had recently approved the lowering of the city's millage rate to $0.30. The ad-valorem taxes which will be collected from the minuscule millage rate are $63,830.
According to Deleon's slide presentation, roughly 88 percent of people within city limits pay taxes. Deleon was hoping to debunk an earlier comment that he heard which suggested that Avon Park residents didn't pay taxes.
Deleon found that 3,878 tax payers out of 4,417 parcels in the city limits pay some amount of tax.
The Public Safety department budget, which includes the contract with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, has decreased to $1.4 million from $1.7 million. Deleon has been pleased with the continued usage of the HCSO in the city, which has cut back on expenditures, however did voice some concern over pensions.
"The police pension plan is probably the largest concern we had going forward," Deleon said. Police pension is budgeted for $130,000 for 2014.
Deleon also expressed worry over the fire department pensions.
"From my perspective all the expenditures in the fire department have been fairly contained, but the pension plans continues to be a concern for the city," said Deleon.
The city's payroll is $744,000 and roughly 48 percent on the dollar is paid to fire pension. Avon Park is currently in union negotiations with the fire department.
Deleon said he was satisfied with the Code Enforcement department, which has decreased its budget by approximately $60,000.
"The 2014 budget for code enforcement is $163,000. We are containing expenditures by this integrated chain of commands we have," Deleon said.
Concerns regarding the trickle down from the county prompted Deleon to budget nothing for the recreation fund. The parks and recreation have been mostly funded by the county for the past several years. Though the 2013 budget for recreation was scaled back drastically, Deleon played it safe and budget no money for the fund for 2014.
"I took the most conservative approach. I'm assuming, worse case scenario, we're not going to see any county recreation funds, so zero for that," Deleon explained.
The general fund is budgeted for $4.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year, down from $5.4 million. The city's contingency fund is set for $169,674 and Deleon stated that the reserves fund is just over $3 million.
"This budget does have enough slack built into it where we not operating under the gun," said Deleon.
Though the City of Sebring has approved the merit pay and bonuses for city staff for the upcoming fiscal year, Deleon felt that it isn't right for Avon Park this year. Instead, Deleon has suggested that the city implement a "buy back" program where the city buys back unused sick days, vacation time, etc. from its employees.
"We get that liability off the books but the employee walks away with some extra money for Christmas or whatever," said Deleon. "Rather than give pay raises I'm going to recommend that we buy back some liability."
The total budget for Avon Park for the upcoming fiscal year is $9.65 million.
(by: Blindman~ - 7/29/2013)
Fire pensions always bleed a towns resources dry. They are worse than letting a whole vacant building go up in smoke.
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