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BB commissioners approve police budget

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach commissioners July 16 approved more than $960,000 to fund the police department for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Commissioners kicked off Week Two of budget talks at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., making minor adjustments to the police budget.

Commissioner Ed Straight asked Speciale if he is comfortable with his final budget.

“These budgets are pretty bare bones,” said Speciale, who noted he adjusted the department’s operating expenses by adding $2,500 per a commission request.

“One thing everybody has to understand is, if there is money left in our budget it goes back into the general fund,” said Speciale. “We don’t decide to spend extra money. We’ve never done that.”

City clerk Nora Idso said she is comfortable with the police budget.

“When we put these budgets in, we’ve always followed them very closely to make sure what we are spending,” said Idso. “We don’t do what the fire department does. We don’t ask for new ladder trucks. We ask for what we need. I think people think when we do our budgets we put in what we want to spend and spend frivolously.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the police budget is about health and safety and it should be appropriately funded.

“We can’t have our officers patrolling the streets at night with cars that have 180,000 miles on them,” said Shaughnessy. “If we do get flak from the voters, then I’m willing to stand up for it.”

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse motioned to approve the police department’s proposed budget, which was seconded by Commissioner Gay Breuler. The motion passed 5-0.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a $13,000 emergency operations budget, based on the department’s communications needs.

CIP budget tabled until July 25

The need to address the city’s infrastructure became a topic of conversation during the summer budget process.

Gatehouse proposed $50,000 in cuts to hours of contracted building official Steve Gilbert and city attorney Ricinda Perry, as well as finding an alternative solution to the city’s street cleaning issue.

Gatehouse’s proposal is to take those savings and put the funds into street repairs in 2012-13, although commissioners backtracked July 18 to make a significant cuts to Gilbert’s hours during the planning budget meeting.

Commissioners received July 16 the one- and five-year priority lists from public works director Tom Woodard addressing street repairs.

The list puts repaving Second Street North for an estimated $15,000 and repaving of Bay Drive North from Bridge Street to Second Street at $10,000 priorities.

The proposed CIP budget was for $10,200. Gatehouse’s request would bump it to $35,200.

“I’ve made proposals for cuts, and we could apply $25,000 of those cuts to the repaving and still maintain where we are,” said Gatehouse.

Commissioners have indicated a tax increase would be likely to address infrastructure needs, but Idso said it doesn’t matter if commissioners raise property taxes.

“We’ve come to the point where we have cut so much over the last few years that even if we were to raise the millage to 2.16 it’s not going to get it done,” she said. The current rate is 2.1359.

Idso said if it is necessary to begin infrastructure projects, she will release dollars from the city’s reserve fund.

“We’ve put lipstick on a pig for years now,” she said. “That’s my opinion as a finance officer. Let’s take the money out of reserves without having to raise the millage and hurt the taxpayers.”

That ultimately will be a commission decision, but commissioners already agree it’s time to address infrastructure.

“We are at a tipping point here,” said Gatehouse. “We’ve neglected essential infrastructure, and we will get to the point where taxpayers will be on the hook for millions in repairs.”

Shaughnessy said, “I’m into getting things done now. We’ve got to take the bull by the horns and get this stuff done. It always costs you more in the long run if you don’t do it right away.”

Commissioners began to make a motion to approve Gatehouse’s request to place $25,000 into the CIP fund, but Idso requested more time to crunch the numbers.

She said she could have the final numbers to commissioners by their July 25 millage meeting.

Commissioners will meet to set the tentative millage rate at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 25 at city hall. They can lower but not raise the millage before hearings and budget approval in September.

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