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Pennies And Patience: Balancing The Tallahassee Budget

By: City of Tallahassee Email
By: City of Tallahassee Email
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By: Matt Galka
June 19, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Tallahassee's 855 million dollar budget plan still has a long way to go before it's approved. City leaders met for their first budget workshop heading into 2014, and they're in a hole.

This morning's three hour meeting wasn't smooth sailing. Right now, the city faces a deficit that they have to carry over into 2014, but the solutions to balancing the budget weren't pleasing everyone...

"Where do we go to borrow from Peter to pay Paul year after year?"

Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum said it point blank: He was frustrated with proposals trying to balance the City budget at the first workshop of the year. Tallahassee is carrying a deficit from 2013.

A property tax hike is on the table. An average home with a taxable value of $150,000 would pay an extra $3.75 a month. Not all commissioners are on board with it.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer: "Lets see if there are other ways we can accomplish maintenance of services and not raise taxes at least at the level that we are."

Another stopgap proposal-- taking 2 million bucks from a utility reserve every year for the next three years. It's a move Gillum says is only a short term solution, and one that could put the City in the same hole every year.

Gillum: "You don't build budgets and account for deficits by borrowing one-time money. Because the next year, you still face the same problem."

The concern about borrowing reserve money is focused around potential disasters like a hurricane. If the city needed that reserve money and it wasn't there, then all of a sudden they're put into a position where they may have to raise utility rates. That's something they're trying to prevent and will look for other solutions at the next workshop in July.


Press Release: City of Tallahassee

City Manager Anita Favors Thompson released her recommended $854.5 million fiscal year 2014 (FY14) budget, which includes a $697.3 millio­­­­­­n operating budget and $157.2 million capital budget, for review by the City Commission. The proposed budget focuses on maintaining the high level of existing services important to citizens, while making necessary financial adjustments that will balance the budget, stimulate the local economy and address critically needed funding for capital projects within the gener­­­­­­­al government area.

“The City of Tallahassee has come through demanding economic times where we saw a loss in revenue, made difficult funding decisions about programs and eliminated approximately 200 positions,” Favors Thompson said. “As an organization, we strive to be financially flexible to positively influence our own destiny. In that regard we are in a good position, especially considering many of our peer governments are still struggling with the effects of the recession.”

The City Commission will hold a workshop on the proposed FY14 budget on Wednesday, June 19. The workshop will begin at 9 a.m. in the City Commission Chambers on the second floor of City Hall, 300 South Adams St. It will be broadcast live on WCOT (Comcast Cable and CenturyLink channel 13) and also streamed live on Talgov.com.

The total operating budget amount for FY14 is $11.7 million higher than the current (FY13) budget, and the capital budget is $29.6 million higher than the current budget. The proposed budget includes a modest adjustment to the City’s millage rate to 3.9999 mills from 3.7 mills. This rate is below the allowable adjusted rolled-back rate of 4.3 mills. At the new proposed rate, an average home with a taxable value of $150,000 would pay an additional $3.75 a month in Ad Valorem. Even at this proposed rate, the City’s property tax rate remains one of the lowest of the larger cities in the State of Florida.

The proposed FY14 budget incorporates direction provided over the past year by the City Commission, as well as input received from citizens at the community budget meetings and through the online citizen survey.

“This proposed budget is designed to provide the level of quality services that citizens have told us they want, while maintaining fiscal responsibility and beginning to recover from the effects of the economic downturn,” said Heath Beach, the City’s Budget Manager.

Among the highlights in the proposed FY14 budget are the following:
• Net increase of 28 FTE positions proposed, including six additional Police officers, five positions for Public Works and two positions for the Animal Service Center.
• Additional funding for StarMetro to provide enhancements to shelters and fund 11 new positions to improve service levels.
• Continued investment in the community to spur economic development and maintain the quality of life enjoyed by our citizens. Examples include proposed funding for the construction of FAMU Way and a limited trolley service that will connect key business districts in the heart of Tallahassee.

The budget also proposes a 2.5 percent salary increase for non-union employees. Although pension rates have not been finalized, it is anticipated that these will increase in FY14. It is also estimated that the City’s portion of the cost of employee health insurance is estimated to increase by approximately five percent, with employees sharing in the increase. Salary and benefit adjustments for Fire are included as provided in the current collective bargaining agreement. The City is currently in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement with Police. The proposed budget includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for Police.

City Commissioners will hold a final budget workshop on July 1. Following the final budget workshop, two public hearings on the proposed FY14 budget will be held on September 11 and 25. The new fiscal year begins October 1. The FY14 proposed budget is available online at Talgov.com.


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