City budget workshop marathon continues today

If the Council President doesn’t change the agenda, slated for discussion are Airport, Port, City Attorney, CRA, Neighborhood Services, MIS, Police, Fire, Public Works and Penny for Progress. Like yesterday, the workshop is to start at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. The Mayor has agreed to buy them lunch so they will work through that tomorrow.

What are the predicted hot spots (ranked by explosiveness):
1. Penny for Progress Fire Station No. 3, which is in the Council President’s district, is not included in the appropriations for next year. Will the city council shift the capital budget and cut other projects for the fire station to be funded?

2. City Attorney Sherri Myers has expressed a desire for the council to hire its own attorney. Messer’s contract is up later in the year. This is the perfect storm.

3. Fire & Police Will the council pay raises or increase staffing for the fire and police? I suspect a motion will made to cut the mayor’s office budget to do so. Remember the mayor delivered a balanced budget. Any increases in expenditures or cuts in revenues must be offset somewhere. The council must return a balanced budget to the mayor and the citizens.

4. CRA The City Council serves as the CRA Board. Will they try to hire their own staff or continue to have the city perform the CRA support? With its obligations, can the CRA afford a full staff?

5. Neighborhood Services Fee increases have been proposed. Myers said she had no problem with them, but other council members were silent on the issue. This could be where the council brings up the cabinet-level Chief of Neighborhoods position.

If the Port is discussed, it could be moved up to #2 on the hot list. I don’t see on the agenda any discussion by the city council of its budget and staffing. Surely they will have to do so at some point.

The Mayor also proposed $10,000 for a discretionary fund for each council member. No one has moved to cut that and use it for ESP or pay raises for the city employees.

I predict the sophomore and freshmen council members will want more meetings. The veterans won’t object but will bail as early as possible on each meeting. In the end, the budget will pass with few changes – 7-2 with Deweese and Pratt on the negative. Maybe 6-3 with Myers joining them if the ESP rates aren’t changed and she holds fast that is the most important part of the budget.

Meanwhile Mayor Hayward will continue to score big with wins like the FDOT grant and news of more companies moving to the area.