City Budget Day One: Shell games, fiscal discipline, needs vs. wants

PNJ reporter Jim Little reported on the first of the Pensacola City Council two budget workshops–the public meetings Mayor Ashton Hayward and City Administrator Eric Olson tried to avoid by having Olson and CFO Dick Barker meet privately and individually with council members.

We learned yesterday that the mayor has allocated an addition $2 million for his proposed Bayview Community Center. The Parks & Recreation Board minutes indicate that the City Council had only approved a budget up to $6-million. (See 03172016-1182)

The total budget for the facility located in his neighborhood is now $8.2 million.

At the Tuesday workshop, CFO Barker told the council that he had told them about the $2-million increase in January. The LOST IV FY 2017 Approved Budget given to the council on Jan. 23 showed the budget as $6.05 million – see LOST IV FY 2017 Approved Budget.

However on the accompanying project list, Mayor Hayward adjusted the budget to $8.25 million – $7.5 million with a 10% contingency. See LOST IV DESCRIPTIONS – COUNCIL WORKSHOP 01-23-17. Only Council members Sherri Myers and Gerald Wingate attended the workshop.

When the city held a town hall meeting in May to get public input on what the facility would include, the PNJ reported the cost for the Bayview Community Center was $5.5 million. The Pulse gave $6 million as the cost estimate.

The $8.2 million will be the most expensive community center built under Mayor Hayward. The Woodland Heights and Theophalis May Community Centers were budgeted $3 million and $3.134 million respectively. Hayward’s administration worked hard to keep the costs of the construction within budget. The buildings don’t have a lot of extras.

In his PNJ viewpoint, Mayor Hayward touted his “fiscal discipline” and wrote that his budget was about needs not wants.

Councilwoman Myers has challenged the mayor whether building the most expensive community center in city history is a greater need than the safety for school children in the Burgess Road neighborhood. So far, Hayward has put the facility ahead of children.