published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Council gives OK to budget
By PHIL ATTINGER
AVON PARK -- City council members have approved on first reading a 2013-14 fiscal year budget, with a property tax rate of 30 cents per $1,000 of taxable value.
A second and final reading with public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at Avon Park City Council chambers, 123 E. Pine St.
Comparing the $17.3 million upcoming budget to fiscal year 2011-12, City Manager Julian Deleon told the council it includes a 95 percent drop in property taxes, a 20 percent cut in garbage fees -- from $20 per month to $16 -- and a plan to eliminate the city's debt by December.
Council members made only one change: They eliminated a $37.50 inspection fee from landlords to have their properties inspected by city officials for safety and sanitary conditions.
The council still wants to continue the inspections, so the loss of the fee means the city will pull a total $11,776 from two fund accounts that cover that program, Deleon said.
The cost of the program would have to come out of a proposed $267,000 contingency fund, he said.
Landlords who spoke Monday said they would appreciate not having to pay an inspection fee on every property they own.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said she didn't have a problem with losing the fee, as long as the inspection program stays in place.
"When people say (they) don't have water or other safe living conditions, you can't inspect if you can't see it from the street," Schuler said.
Avon Park's expected 2013-14 property tax revenue would be $63,830, which Deleon said the city can afford thanks to reduced expenses, a workforce reduced from 103 to less than 50 employees, areas annexed into the city limits for water and sewer service and a reduction in the law enforcement contract with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office of $553,000 since last year.
Overall, the city would have $4.94 million in revenue in the coming fiscal year with a total general fund budget of $9.88 million.
Deleon said city would have a revised general fund contingency of $255,000 -- still more than 2011's budget of $148,000 -- and more than two and a half months of operating revenue in reserves: $3 million.
He also said the utility fund is budgeted to bring in $300,000 for the 2013-14 budget, but actual revenue for the current year is expected to exceed $400,000.
He is proposing that the city acquire two more utilities: Brentwood Mobile Home Park wastewater system and Banyan Woods wastewater system -- along with all their customers.
Deleon said he has budgeted $150,000 in city funds for water and sewer expansion, as well as an application in for a $2.2 million State Revolving Fund for utility expansion, of which the city would only pay a 15 percent match.
The city's infrastructure fund has $150,000 budgeted for roads, $300,000 for improvements in south Avon Park neighborhoods and funds to purchase one extra public safety vehicle.
By budgeting $1.41 million to pay off a bond issue, Deleon said he expects the city to save $50,000 in interest and make the city debt free by the end of December.
Deleon said the city manager's budget would be $238,370, down from $309,000 two years ago.
The general services budget is $115,000, down from $197,000 in 2011, he said.
The city council asked Deleon to increase the code enforcement budget to convert a part-time officer to a full-time position, which he said would cost an extra $14,500.
Deleon still expressed concern about the fire department budget of $1.37 million, up from the $1.29 million two years ago.
He attributed most of the increase to pensions, which went up from $178,000 to $344,000.
A meeting with the law enforcement pension board has been tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 14. Councilman Parke Sutherland, an attorney, has been asked to sit in for City Attorney Gerald Buhr, who said he would not be able to attend.
Budget & Water treatment (by: JIMMYFALCO - 9/12/2013)
Blindman is exactly right, Thanks to Mr. Deleon and our city council,including Mayor Schuler. I appreciate all the hard work by our city manager. Also, do not forget to vote by 10/09/13 on our city website if you want fluoride or not in our water. All residents can vote,thanks!
(by: Blindman~ - 9/12/2013)
The budget report reflects the fiscal responsibility of council & management, but there is more... To reduce a city workforce from 103 to under 50 employees is amazing. The city employees who are still there are working hard and earning their pay. They made it through the storm and came out shining like diamonds. The city employees of Avon Park deserve credit in their job performance along with Deleon and the council. Good job ladies & gentlemen. Applause!!!!
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