The Longboat Key Town Commission doesn’t want to overlook any potential budget cuts.
Although it accepted Town Manager Bruce St. Denis’ preliminary budget — as a first step in a long summer of budget deliberations — the seven-member board warned town staff it demands further budget cuts where possible and a further review of budget-cut suggestions presented by Key resident Lenny Landau.
Landau, along with Key resident Phillip Younger, presented a 2009-10 budget study, which they believe has the potential for $920,000 in budget reductions.
The report states that the two residents found $590,000 in savings from the general fund, which could be reduced without impacting town services or personnel. Approximately $330,000 in savings, Landau said, was also found from enterprise funds that affect town rates.
Landau and Younger’s report takes three years of actual budget numbers and compares those numbers against what’s proposed in this year’s budget.
“We ask you to look at why we need increases for some of these line items, when in the past you haven’t needed that much money,” said Landau, who thinks the proposed budget is too strongly influenced by prior year budgets.
But the day before the budget meeting, Landau said Finance Director Tom Kelley rejected most of the study’s budget cuts, only coming up with somewhere between $26,000 and $62,000 that might be considered as acceptable savings.
And, before the meeting, town staff passed out to commissioners a spreadsheet explaining why $521,735 in proposed budget cuts from the two residents could not be made. Reasons for some of the rejections in savings included difficulty in estimating fuel and electricity costs and the inability to reduce budgeted overtime for police and fire employees because of minimum manning requirements.
When St. Denis presented Landau with a copy of the explanations for why much of his budget cuts would not work, Landau became frustrated.
“I would rather see an effort on what you can cut instead of an effort on why you can’t do any of these things that we suggested,” Landau said.
Younger also became annoyed when Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann suggested that the two residents came up with their budget cut numbers by using the SWAG formula. The term SWAG, in account slang terminology, stands for “scientific wild ass guess.”
“This was not a SWAG,” Younger said. “In every case we set a budget amount that was very consistent with actual expenditures for two prior fiscal years and the projected fiscal year.”
Despite town staff’s argument for its budget as proposed, the commission directed the town manager to review Landau and Younger’s presentation more thoroughly and report any additional savings at the Thursday, June 18 regular workshop.
For now, the 2009-10 fiscal year preliminary budget includes a $498,740 deficit and the second consecutive proposed millage increase in nine years to erase that shortfall.
For Longboat Key taxpayers, the town administration is suggesting the Town Commission erase the projected $498,740 deficit by voting to raise the tax rate 6.4% to 1.5967 mills.
St. Denis is also asking the Town Commission to consider adopting the maximum rollback millage rate of 1.6751 mills at its Monday, July 6 regular meeting, which would be an 11.7% increase over the town’s current 1.5 millage rate.
Finance Director Tom Kelley, however, told the Town Commission that he believes enough work can be done to the budget to get the millage rate under 1.6 mills.
Lee Rothenberg also received a consensus at the meeting to include his suggestion that an additional code enforcement officer position be added to the budget, for review at the regular workshop, because the department is understaffed, overworked and cannot keep up with applying consistent enforcement Key-wide.
The recommended budget will be presented to the commission in early August and the budget will be adopted on second reading at a special meeting 5:01 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28.
COMMISSIONERS ZERO IN ON BUDGET LINE ITEMS
• Commissioner Gene Jaleski urged town staff to seriously consider the amount of money the town spends on its beaches and if the overall result is worth the price it pays for the sand and the beach consultants.
Jaleski also urged staff to reduce the amount the town spends on legal fees and asked for a study to be performed on using energy-efficient LED lights to reduce costs.
• Commissioner Hal Lenobel, an opponent of the new Public Tennis Center expansion, was upset with the $143,000 in additional expenses the tennis center is expected to need next year.
• Commissioner George Spoll said he wants to see a millage rate of no more than 1.6 mills and would rather the town hold the current millage rate of 1.5 mills when the budget is adopted.
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