Dear Mayor Gillum and Commissioners,
After reviewing the manager’s FY17 budget and transmittal letter, I have several observations that I thought you might find useful as you proceed with your own personal analysis of the information that you have been provided.
First, no capital budget has been provided for you or the public. This appears the first time in at least twenty years that the operating budget has been released without a capital budget. Last year, the manager released both budgets on June 16, 2015.
One of the main reason you and the public would want to see the entire plan in June is that you will be expected to set the proposed millage rate at your final budget workshop on July 13th. After the July 13 meeting, there will remain only two remaining meetings for the public to give input, both occurring in September.
Last year several capital expenditures captured the public attention including the S. Monroe pedestrian bridge, body cameras, and a $50,000 renovation study of the TPD building. This year we will have less time to discuss the capital budget because of the delay in receiving it.
Another issue is that the city budget shows a $5.9 million surplus in the general fund that is proposed to fund general government capital projects, but no projects have been identified or prioritized. Last year, a list of projects was provided which were thoroughly discussed at early budget workshops.
Speaking of the budget surplus, it appears that a majority of “savings” are produced by transferring expenses and personnel from the general fund responsibility to the enterprise funds. For example, about $1.7 million in Public Works expenses have been transferred to the water department. Apparently, in the budget staff’s opinion, these expenses are now more accurately assigned to enterprise departments. So, does that mean that they were incorrectly charged to the general fund last year when property taxes were raised to cover the shortfall in the general fund?
Additional savings in the general fund transfers are proposed by transferring expenses out of the Star Metro account to Fleet management. The same work is being performed, but with different accounting allocations of departmental billings.
There are additional savings attributed to an elimination of “long time vacancies” at Star Metro. Last year Budget Hawks pointed out that many jobs were being funded in the FY16 budget, some vacancies carried and funded for years. How long were the Star Metro vacancies that are being eliminated in the FY17 budget on the books and were being funded?
And how many other “long time vacancies” are being funded in this budget?
It would be very helpful to the public if one of the commissioners or staff could explain exactly how Star Metro plans to suddenly reverse years of increasing subsidies from the general fund. That is quite a turn-around accomplishment! I have read the budget and have spoken to Mr. Goad and Mr. Lowe, and I still do not comprehend the plan to save $1.2 million or more especially after losing almost 10% of Star Metro’s revenue when FAMU does not renew its contract.
One particularly confusing part of the budgeting by staff, and it is probably just a recording error, is that if you look at the adopted Star Metro FY16 budget on-line, it incorrectly shows the adopted budget was $15 plus million. My recollection is that the adopted budget was $17 plus million. The proposed FY17 seems to confirm my memory. I hope you can clear that up for the public at tonight’s meeting.
Thank you for your patience and for being so open to hearing from your constituents even when they seem to disagree with your point of view.
As always, I offer these suggestions, questions, and observations with all due respect for the challenging positions ,which you now hold.