It may be a familiar problem to some people, not having enough money for everyday needs.
Almost six months into the 2013-14 fiscal year budget, reviewed and approved in 2013 under the former administration, Bradenton Beach now faces a $400,000 shortfall.
This year’s budget was approved at more than $2.5 million, but projected spending is now more than $2.9 million.
With a new mayor and two new commissioners taking office following the November 2013 municipal election and a new city clerk and treasurer recently taking up their positions at city hall, dissecting the budget has been a priority for Mayor Bill Shearon.
The mayor ran on a platform of transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. Almost immediately after taking office there were concerns about the budget and how the city spent money. It quickly became apparent that it was difficult to track where the city’s money was being spent.
As a result, Shearon tasked commissioners to form a budget review committee and ordered an internal audit. The results of that audit have been much anticipated and, while not officially released to the public, the overall problem was revealed during a March 13 department head meeting.
Police Chief Sam Speciale questioned his department’s attorney fees, and treasurer Sheila Dalton said it appeared to be cell tower-related.
Neither Dalton nor the mayor nor Commissioner Jack Clarke nor Vice Mayor Janie Robertson were in their current positions when the budget process was finalized.
Commissioner Ed Straight was in office and said all attorney fees, including the cell-tower fees charged by city attorney Ricinda Perry, should have been spread out equally among the departments.
“But it does appear that all cell tower-related charges went to the police department,” said Dalton.
Shearon said everything related to the budget process will “drastically change.” With the audit, the mayor proposes a new look at the budget. “In six months, we are going to restructure it and make one massive budget change.”
Clarke, who heads the budget review committee, said it was that kind of information his committee needs to know about as the review process continues. The committee has struggled with identifying line-item spending in the budget’s current format.
It was then that Shearon disclosed the full weight of the financial burden facing the city.
“The budget was done the quick and dirty way,” he said. “We have almost $400,000 in expenses that exceeds revenue. There was $250,000 that was spent without budget amendments. That is against state law. It isn’t going to happen again.”
Shearon said there were 24 line-item issues in this year’s budget that incurred overspending, according to the audit results.
“These are all things I had to sign for and it wasn’t even my budget,” he said. “I didn’t approve the budget, and I didn’t spend the money.”
The detailed results of the audit are expected to be released at the next city commission meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, March 20, at city hall, 105 Gulf Drive N.