In a break from tradition, city commissioners are setting their own agendas, instead of relying on staff members, residents groups and city management to set them for them.
In their first bi-weekly workshop May 26, commissioners detailed the things on which they would like to focus, including paid parking, cutting personnel costs and privatizing certain services or consolidating them with the county.
Newly installed parking meters was the biggest topic of discussion, with new commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Shannon Snyder saying they believe a comprehensive parking-management system should have been put into place before the meters were utilized.
“It’s like we bought a train set and threw it out there and said, “OK, enjoy it,’” Caragiulo said.
Snyder equated the parking meters to taxing people to park downtown.
“The explanation should have been on (the city’s) website from the beginning that (meters) are paying for garages and enforcement,” he said.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta replied that those things were explained.
“We had probably 100 meetings with the public,” said Bartolotta.
He also said that during last year’s budget hearings, the commission chose the option of parking meters instead of having parking operations paid through taxes.
The city manager asked that the commission give City Hall six months to a year to study how effective the parking meters are.
On the topic of personnel costs, Vice Mayor Terry Turner said that despite city staff being reduced by 24%, personnel expenses remained flat, he said, because pension costs are rising 37%.
Turner said he feels that either the number of staff members or their compensation should be reduced.
“If we’re going to cut the budget, we’re going to have to manage personnel costs,” Turner said.
Another way commissioners discussed reducing the budget is to outsource certain business or consolidate them with the city.
Merging some police operations with the sheriff’s office was mentioned most often.
“You don’t reduce costs by not having some (police services),” said Caragiulo. “Those officers are just moved to (another department), and the personnel costs are the highest costs.”
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].