City commissioners discuss parks in budget talks

-A A +A
By David Davis

Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey reported Monday, Aug. 14, during a budget meeting of the City Commission that the city General Fund is balanced with the roll back rate of 6.9850 mills on property taxes in the city.

Ellzey expects the city to collect approximately $1.56 million in taxes, which would be an increase of $177,082 over the previous year. More than half, $878,608 is anticipated to come from Ad Valorem Taxes. License and Permit is expected to generate $387,700; Intergovernmental Revenue, $275,131; Charges for Services, $21,792; Fines and Bonds, $13,200; and Miscellaneous Revenue, $21,585 for a total of $2.28 million in total operating revenue. Adding in contingency and prior year refund of $108,000 increases the total operating revenue and grants to $2.39 million, an overall decrease from the previous year of $200,492.

Discussion on the cost of park maintenance, aging police and fire department fleets and the aging sewer system took up most of the 30-minute meeting.

The 2016-17 adopted budget reflects a total budget of $114,025 and the request for 2017-18 is $117,117, an increase of $3,092.

Hudson asked if that was a good estimate on how much the city spends on park maintenance and employees. He said the city has a population of 2,500 people and 40-45 acres of parks.

Ellzey said the Levy County Commission has “a little bit of money they donate and I do think they split that up, but I don’t know.”

Hudson asked about outside help maintaining the parks. Strickland Park, for example is not entirely within the city limits.

Ellzey said the C-AAA has helped throughout the years. “I think some cities might share the cost in that for their recreational facilities.”

Hudson said he was not the only one on the commission who believes the city is on the top end on parks per resident.

The city manager said that if there is a large subdivision, the developer is required to set aside a certain amount of land for parks.

“That’s what I’m saying. We have more parks than anywhere else per resident,” Hudson said. “I get more calls about parks than I do about dogs or speeding, police department or fire department. I get more calls about parks.”

Ellzey said, “I will say that we get a lot of complaints about park asking why can’t we do this, why can’t we do that. They go to other cities and they see their parks, but they have maintenance crews. Some of those parks are shared with other agencies whether it be the county or the school board.”

She said other cities have maintenance crews that drag the fields between tournaments and “we just don’t have that. We don’t have the staff to do that.”

Tournaments pay large sums of money and half of it goes to the host city for maintenance. C-AAA uses the money paid to them for trophies, umpires and other things needed to host a tournament.

“We don’t see none of that,” Mayor Betty Walker said.

“I just hope the paper puts out that we’re paying $114,000 for parks. That’s a lot of money Hudson said. “Anyway, that’s just a deal that we’re getting hammered on.”

When the discussion turned to Chiefland Fire Rescue, Chief James Harris said he took a truck to Ocala for repairs and he is looking at a $45,000 bill. It’s the newer truck but it has “way more miles on it. This equipment is getting older and older and older and I’m going to keep patching it and it’s going to cost money. I’m just telling you that every year it’s just going to keep going up.”

He said the department is running old trucks and the best among them is a 1991 model year.

As of Aug. 14, Harris said he believes the county’s contribution to his department will remain unchanged.

Ellzey said the Utility Fund is balanced with the $5 sewer base rate increase to our sewer customers. And like the aging fleet operated by first responders, the sewer system is facing repairs.

• All department salary line items include a 2 percent Cost of Living Allowance increase for all non-probationary and nonunion employees. The salary of five employees will increase up to at least $10 per hour.

• The 2017-2018 Florida Blue health insurance rates have been applied.

• Funding for the Financial/Utility Billing software package is in the General Fund.

• Property, Liability, Automobile, Workers Compensation insurance renewal rates

have been applied to every General Fund department.

• Retirement calculation corrected.

• Ellzey’s salary has been adjusted upward 2 percent and the associated benefits have been adjusted.

• A 2 percent COLA has been added for union members and associated benefit lines adjusted in the Police Department Fund.

“We have not agreed on this so we are still waiting on a meeting date from the union,” Ellzey said. “We had one scheduled and they cancelled so we are trying to set up another meeting date, but I did add a 2 percent COLA for all the union members just to see what the impact was going to be on our General Government Budget.”

She said Special Event Overtime has been moved from Streets to recreation where it should have been. There are no changes to the Usher Center.