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Date of Issue: August 02, 2007

Barford proposes $2.7 million Anna Maria budget

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford assured city commissioners at their July 24 budget workshop that her proposed $2.789 million budget will maintain the quality of life in the city for residents and visitors.

But preparing the budget was no easy task.

That’s because the Florida Legislature has mandated that city and county government’s cut spending by at least 9 percent from last year’s budget rollback rate and Barford complied.

In fact, the proposed budget comes with an ad valorem tax rate of just 1.7882 mils, a 10.6 percent drop from last year’s rate of 2.0 mils.

“This year’s budget preparation has been extremely challenging with the state directives for reduction,” noted the mayor in her opening remarks to the commission. But the staff has prepared a balanced budget that “will not compromise the health, welfare and safety of our residents and visitors,” she pledged.

The biggest budget line item is the $646,000 proposed by Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube for law enforcement services, a modest 5 percent increase from last year’s $615,000 contract.

But some commissioners objected to the near 7 percent salary increase across the board for city staff.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said the increases are “totally out of line,” and “financially irresponsible.”

Barford, however, defended the increases.

She said she’s made a number of changes to staff duties and this has increased the workload on everyone. “These people deserve this. I stand behind the salary increases.”

She said her mid-year reviews of job performances convinced her the increases were warranted by merit performances. She also noted that the city no longer has a full-time building official, a savings of about $50,000 annually.

Commissioner Duke Miller suggested that maybe the “merit” is that the staff is getting to come to work every day, rather than facing a layoff as is happening in other municipal governments.

“We appreciate what they are doing, but bullets have to be bit.” He thought just the standard cost of living increase (about 3 percent) would be sufficient.

But Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick observed that the total pay increases are not an “outrageous” amount.

Agreed, said Commission Chairperson John Quam. The salary increases are only about $20,000 total for the seven city staff members. With benefits added, the total increase is only about $40,000.

City treasurer Diane Percycoe did note that health insurance costs have again increased dramatically, as they do every year and the city is going to send a letter to other insurance carriers asking for quotes on coverage similar to what Blue Cross/Blue Shield currently provides the city.

Commissioner Christine Tollette suggested that employees make a contribution to pay for the cost of their health insurance to “show good faith.”

Currently, no municipal government in Manatee County requires staff members to pay a portion of the cost of their health insurance coverage.

In Bradenton Beach, the city pays for employee nd dependent health insurance coverage, while Holmes Beach pays a portion of the health insurance cost for dependents of a city employee.

The next Anna Maria budget worksession is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.