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What CIty Budget Talks Mean for Your Bottom Dollar

Dunedin officials are crunching numbers to bring you tax savings and pay raises, just not as much as they first thought.

City officials are determined to squeeze employee pay increases and residential tax decreases from the coming year’s budget — although, they trimmed figures during recent budget talks because of “indefinite” revenue setbacks, announced in a workshop on Aug. 9.

What this may mean for you?

  • City employees may see a one-time, 2-percent bonus and a 1-percent raise. (A 3 percent raise was originally proposed.)
  • Taxes (the millage rate) may permanently decrease 5 percent (A 6-percent reduction was originally proposed.) Budget projections showed that the city could conceivably absorb the loss of tax income without impact into 2013. Meaning, commissioners likely won’t have to turn around and raise taxes next budget season.

Dunedin officials are moving forward with these recommendations assuming no other revenue setbacks change their course.

History:

The city had planned for and tax relief around some for overpaid firefighter pensions (a figure to the tune of $752,918). The issue, however, is a , who believe the credit should go to them, and not the general fund, where city officials plan to use it. The firefighters appealed to state judgment on the city’s motion, and until a decision is made, the state’s payment is “indefinitely delayed,” according to Rob DiSpirito, city manager.

“[A balanced budget, pay increases and millage reductions are] no longer possible … without the use of excess reserves,” DiSpirito explained in an Aug. 9 budget workshop.

Vice mayor Ron Barnette lauded Jeff Yates, director of finance, as he presented a compromise on Aug. 9 to use roughly $2.1 million of general funds to accomplish the same balanced objective. He reduced pay raises for city employees and tax savings to residents slightly and projected their longterm budget impact.

“This is rather a conservative way of doing it,” vice mayor Ron Barnett said. “What I appreciate about this, is not only is it balanced within the confines of a balanced budget now, but it lays the groundwork for a much cleaner approach to next year’s budgeting than we’ve had going into this year or the previous year. … We’re not gonna have to start from scratch next year wondering what a millage reduction is gonna do next year. This says it’s OK. It’s safe.”

At a glance:

Of the $2.1 million pulled from reserves:

  • Roughly $333,000 would go back citizens in the form of tax relief,
  • Roughly $174,000 would go back to employees in the form of a one-time bonus,
  • Roughly $1.5 million would fund the replacement and relocation of Dunedin Fire Station 61, which is currently at Highlander Park, and
  • More than $99,700 would go toward city IT infrastructure projects.

Where commissioners stood on raises after Yates crunched different figure combinations and options in the context of their longterm affects:

  • Julie Ward Bujalski: Supported a one-time, 3-percent bonus. She did not feel comfortable that the city could sustain the longterm impact of a permanent, 1-percent pay increase.
  • David Carson: Originally supported a one-time, 3-percent bonus, but felt confident that the city could sustain its recommended proposal for a one-time, 2-percent bonus and permanent 1-percent raise after Yates crunched numbers.
  • Julie Scales: Supported a permanent 2-percent raise and a one-time, 1-percent bonus. “I’ve always felt if the money is there to reward our employees … If we have it, I think it’s being just a little bit mean-spirited to say, ‘No I’m not gonna give that to you’,” she said. “What happens next year, I couldn’t make a commitment, who knows who will be sitting up here.”
  • Ron Barnette: Moved forward with a 2-percent raise and a one-time, 1-percent bonus. “It doesn’t compromise bigger picture,” he said.
  • Mayor Dave Eggers: Supported a one-time, 3-percent bonus. “I’ve been stressing it along. It has no reflection on anything. People want to say it’s a reflection that if you do something different [than the recommended 2-percent bonus and 1-percent raise] that you’re somehow speaking something different about the employees,” he said.

Final decisions are pending. The next budget workshop is slated for Aug. 29 at City Hall, 9 a.m. to noon.

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