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Date of Issue: July 21, 2010

Bradenton Beach budgeting begins

Bradenton Beach commissioners are eying a proposed 2010-11 budget that would provide for the same millage rate applied this year and a raise for city employees.

The commission, which has been discussing budget issues for months, met July 13 to review budget proposals for the police department and two public works operations — sanitation and streets and roads.

Both departmental budgets, in addition to other city department budgets, provide for a 5 percent raise for city employees, said Mayor Bob Bartelt.

The overall budget also proposes a 2.1539 millage rate, the same rate as for the 2009-10 budget and the same rate applied for the 2008-09 budget.

If the city levies the proposed 2.1539 millage rate, the local tax on a $400,000 home, without taking exemptions into account, would be $861.56. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value of property less any exemptions.

The proposed rate is lower than the rollback rate, which, according to the Manatee County Property Assessor’s Office would be 2.4868 mills. The rollback rate is the tax rate that would bring in the same amount of property tax dollars from the prior year.

The overall proposed budget does not propose spending any of the city’s reserves, which was required this year.

The commission and mayor spent 90 minutes reviewing budget details with city clerk Nora Idso, BBPD Chief Sam Speciale and public works director Tom Woodard.

Much of the discussion focused on personnel and compensation — specifically Woodard’s idea to realign the public works department that involves creating a field superintendent post and eliminating an assistant director post and the proposed pay increase.

Bartelt said, “Employees have not received a raise in three years. …If we spread this out over four years, it would come out to be about 1.245 percent a year. The employees that we have, I would like to retain.”

Bartelt, noting that the city does not have a policy for merit pay or longevity raises, said some employees who started with the city three years ago have remained at the minimum of $11.50 per hour.

“I really don’t think this is over the top,” he said.

Commissioners did not object to a raise, but they had questions and concerns.

Should the newest employees receive the full 5 percent? asked Commissioner Janie Robertson.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said.

Bartelt replied that the newer employees are likely the lowest paid workers and “need it the most.”

A 5 percent raise for an employee earning the city’s minimum wage would mean 57 cents more per hour or $22.80 more for a 40-hour week.

“Do you think that’s excessive?” the mayor said.

Other governments are still cutting back, observed Commissioner Gay Breuler.

“Throughout the country, we are seeing people taking cuts in salary, taking cuts in benefits,” she said.

“I’m not saying I don’t want to do this,” she said. “I want to know how.”

The how, said Bartelt, is in part from the elimination of an entire department — the city project/program management department.

“That’s $115,000 right there,” Bartelt said.

There are other decreases within departmental budgets, added Speciale.

The proposed police budget, for example, shows decreases in fuel and overtime expenditures.

“I assure you … there isn’t anything in here that has fluff in it,” Speciale said of the $937,650 expense budget for his department.

Woodard briefly presented his budgets for streets and roads and sanitation.

Streets and roads is proposed at $207,169 compared with $190,150 for this year. Salaries and wages, as well as related personnel costs, would go up in the new budget; professional services, attorney fees and operating expenses would go down.

The proposed sanitation budget is $299,372 compared with this year’s $296,369.

The budget does not take into account any changes that might come if the commission outsources its recycling collection. The commission last week authorized city attorney Ricinda Perry to write a request for proposals for recycling services.

The proposed spending plan for public works also does not deal with Woodard’s suggestion that the city eliminate the assistant public works director post and instead create a field foreman position.

“I used to have that,” Woodard said. “I need a go-to-person in the field.”

Public works is currently down two staffers, but Char Patterson holds the assistant director post.

Woodard’s suggestion drew a strong objection from Breuler, as well as resistance from Robertson and Commissioner Janet Vosburgh.

“I have a big, big, big not liking of this,” said Breuler, noting that Patterson has “picked up the ball and run several times and has got nothing but excellent recommendations for what she’s done.”

Most recently, Breuler said, Patterson proved herself when she assumed director responsibilities while Woodard served a 30-day suspension.

She said if the city acted on the proposal, it could result in a demotion for the acting director, as well as be construed as retaliation or discrimination.

“If it were me, I would be to a lawyer in less than a second,” Breuler said.

Woodard said, “This is not a personal issue.”

Bartelt added, “We’re talking about the budget.… This is a city of less than 1,500 people with a total department of seven employees. I don’t know how many supervisors we need.”

“For the last four years it was OK,” Breuler said. “Now we’re saying it’s not.”

“A lot of things came when there was a time of fluff,” the mayor replied.

Eventually, there was an agreement to postpone the discussion on realigning the public works department until after the budget process.

At the conclusion of last week’s meeting, the commission unanimously approved the preliminary numbers for the police department, but held off on the public works budgets, which were to be discussed again July 19, after The Islander went to press.

Additional meetings this week will focus on budgets for administration, planning and building, facilities and maintenance, the community redevelopment agency, Tingley Memorial Library and the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Early income, expense projections

        Bradenton Beach has published its first worksheet for the 2010-11 municipal budget.

        In preliminary numbers, the budget projects:

        • Total revenues: $2,681,183 compared with $2,729,975 for 2009-10.

        • Property tax revenues: $873,808 compared with $1,070,800 for 2009-10.

        • Proposed total expenditures: $2,678,359 compared with $2,847,301 for 2009-10.

        • Proposed millage: 2.1539 mills, the same as for 2009-10 and 2008-09.

        • Rollback rate: 2.4868 mills.

        The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.