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Date of Issue: September 14, 2006

Anna Maria budget ready - maybe

After five worksessions and one public hearing, Anna Maria may have its 2006-07 budget of $2.3 million at a property tax rate of 2.0 mils ready for approval at the final budget public hearing Sept. 20.

Then again, it might not.

Only three of the five city commissioners were at the first public hearing on the budget Sept. 7 and considering that not all the additional budget expenditures proposed at that meeting received unanimous approval for inclusion, the full commission - Commissioners Duke Miller and Christine Tollette were absent Sept. 7 - could be in for a lengthy session Sept. 20.

Commissioner Dale Woodland was opposed to a proposal by Commission Chairman John Quam to increase the salaries of city staff by an additional 5 percent above the 5 percent increase already in the budget. Woodland said he needed to see performance evaluations first.

Woodland also objected to several other last-minute additions to expenditures, including a proposal by public works director George McKay to purchase a $6,000 lawn mower to maintain the newly constructed swales on Gladiolus Street. The current city lawnmower can’t cut low enough to the ground in the swale, McKay said. Woodland also questioned a proposal by Mayor SueLynn and McKay that the city outsource street cleaning.

McKay said he could get a street-sweeping company from Tampa for about $3,000 annually, but admitted he didn’t have any "hard" figures on the cost. Another company offered a bid of almost $9,000 for the service.

McKay said he will bring more concrete information on street sweeping costs to the Sept. 20 meeting.

The commission also gave consensus approval to a request from Mayor SueLynn to raise building official Kevin Donohue’s salary an additional $2,894 to just under $63,000 annually. The mayor noted that the building official in Bradenton Beach makes nearly $90,000 per year.

She also observed that exclusive of the police department, Bradenton Beach, with less population than Anna Maria, has 19 full-time staff compared with just eight in Anna Maria.

Not to be outdone, Commissioner Linda Cramer proposed an additional $3,500 in the budget for an Orlando expert on "walkable cities" to make a presentation and followup report to the commission. Woodland and Quam agreed.

The additional requests would, if approved, be funded from the $50,000 in the contingency fund, which would lower that amount to about $35,000, but leave the millage rate and reserve fund unchanged.

Under the proposed budget, Anna Maria’s ad valorem tax rate will be 2.0 mils, while the reserve fund will start the fiscal year at 33.49 percent. City treasurer Diane Percycoe said that if the city meets all projected revenues and expenditures in the 2006-07 budget, the reserve fund will reach 38.1 percent of the operating budget by Sept. 30, 2007.

Resident Jim Conoly sparked the liveliest - if only brief - debate of the evening when he claimed that the mayor had said previously the city staff was "incompetent."

That prompted SueLynn to explode, stating emphatically that she had never said such a thing and that the opposite was true. Quam gaveled Conoly out of order before tempers reached a boiling point.

The final budget hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, with Miller and Tollette expected to attend.