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Longboat Key to add new town engineer position

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This upcoming year, the town may add one new full-time Public Works employee, while other positions requested by the police and fire rescue departments will stay off the table. 

Personnel and operating expenditures were one of the focuses at the Longboat Key Town Commission’s second workshop for the preliminary fiscal year 2025 budget. In that workshop, Town Manager Howard Tipton presented the budget he crafted along with the Finance Department and all other department heads. 

In the preliminary FY25 budget, personnel expenditures are estimated to cost $18,397,816, an increase of $1,614,804, or 9.6%, from the previous year. Total operating expenditures are estimated to be $4,226,269, an increase of 10.8% or $413,667 from FY24. 

That brings the General Fund Operating Expenditure budget (without capital) to $22,624,085 for FY25, which is a 9.85% increase from FY24. 

Revenues from ad valorem taxes, non-ad valorem taxes and a potential canal ad valorem tax total $23,237,311. The majority of that — $17,199,902 — comes from ad valorem (property) taxes. 

Town Manager Howard Tipton said that increased inflation has been a challenge in crafting the town's budget.
Photo by Lori Sax

Tipton outlined some of the town's financial challenges, including increasing inflationary pressures. 

Inflationary pressures also contribute to the need to increase wages to remain competitive. This is especially important, Tipton said, because of challenges recruiting workers to the public sector. Anecdotally, Tipton said finding people who want to jump from the private to public sector is difficult. 

“We have to continue to make investments in salaries and benefits in order to maintain the current strong position that the town has carved out,” Tipton said.

Personnel costs account for 73% of the General Fund Budget in FY25. General employee increases are an estimated $460,262. 

“You will see that employee wage adjustments are a major component of the budget increase that we’re seeing, both with general employees as well as incorporating the police and fire contracts,” Tipton said.

Employee investments also include newly negotiated union contracts with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and the Florida Police Benevolent Association (PBA). The contracts were a big topic in the last budget cycle when negotiations wrapped up. 

This year, the contracts account for a $320,388 increase from the IAFF contract and $64,113 for the PBA contract.

According to Budget Manager Sandi Henley, the contracts are front-end-loaded, meaning the first year of increases will be the largest. That’s the case for the IAFF contract this year, whereas the PBA contract is in its second year. 

Another $90,000 will go toward police overtime for patrolling Greer Island (Beer Can Island). Recently, Manatee County Commissioners agreed to an increase in the county’s contribution to this, which resulted in an increase of $20,000 annually, up from $60,000 to $80,000. 

Tipton also mentioned that worker’s compensation was expected to rise 5% due to the changes in salaries, and health care was estimated to increase 12%. 

Operating expenditures account for 17% of the General Fund Budget in FY25 and go toward things like flood insurance, police uniforms and training for new employees.

Selecting new staff

Tipton shared that feedback from department heads indicated staffing desires in multiple areas. 

The Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department requested two new personnel — a total of six over the next three years — and the Longboat Key Police Department requested three new officers. Also, a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyst and a town engineer were requested.

The Tennis Center asked that one of its part-time employees be promoted to full-time. 

After analyzing all the requests, Tipton and staff settled on making room in the budget for a town engineer, a new position, and the promotion of the Tennis Center employee. 

“The positions that I’m supporting for this budget include the new town engineer who will be a complement to Isaac and his team as we look at resilience and really looking at the project management that's going to be required to move those projects forward,” Tipton said.

The engineer, based out of the Public Works Department, will be funded 75% from the General Fund and 25% from the Utilities Fund. The upgrade for the Tennis Center employee will be funded 100% through tennis fees. 

The FY25 budget includes $67,700 for GIS and other potential contract services, which could help address the desire to incorporate more GIS into town departments. GIS is a program that uses data to create visual representations of geographic information, which can make maps for different purposes.



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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