City Commission discusses budget, homelessness issue, approves TFD contract

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 9:25 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After a budget workshop Wednesday afternoon, City Commissioners approved contracts with Marpan and TFD at their Commission meeting. The future of the City Walk facility on Mahan Drive, and the issue of homelessness in Tallahassee, also continued to be hotly contested topics.

Fiscal year 2021 budget

Local leaders had a workshop about the fiscal year 2021 budget Wednesday afternoon; the meeting lasted just over an hour.

Budget workshops in July of 2020 showed the City was facing a revenue loss of more than $23 million dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All 14 of the City’s operating funds are within budget right now.

A municipal cost comparison also shows Tallahassee is one of the lowest in the state for taxes, rates and fees; it was the second lowest out of eleven municipalities included.

Commissioners heard an update on the FY21 budget; staff says they are keeping a close eye on the StarMetro and Aviation funds, both of which have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Staff says federal relief funding, including CARES Act dollars, have helped, but those numbers will need to be monitored throughout the fiscal year.

Looking ahead at the fiscal year 2022 budget, the the City has requested state and federal reimbursement for some COVID-19 costs, including emergency response expenses and PPE expenses.

The City will also be looking at reinstating pay increases for general employees in fiscal year 2022.

Recycling contract approved

The City Commission unanimously voted to approved a new contract with Marpan. It’s similar to the one the County Commission approved Tuesday night.

The contract uses a sliding scale for revenue sharing between Marpan and the City to keep single-stream recycling viable. When values are low, Marpan will retain more revenue; when recycling values are high, the City will take a greater share, lowering the net cost of recycling for the local government.

Firefighters’ collective bargaining agreement

Commissioners voted unanimously to ratify the collective bargaining agreement with Tallahassee Firefighters at Wednesday’s meeting.

The decision came after a couple of months of back and forth, with protest at City Hall.

Joey Davis, the President of the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Local 2339, told WCTV he was feeling relieved about the contract.

“It was a long road to get here,” said Davis.

He said he and others at TFD were overwhelmed by the support of the community.

The term for the new contract runs from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2023.

“In this agreement, we’re going to get some help with dealing with some of our benefit costs that take a lot of the take home pay out of our checks, and we also have in year 2 and 3, we have some raises to keep us competitive with other departments,” said Davis.

Under this agreement, firefighters will also receive 240 hours of parental leave.

The future of City Walk and homelessness issues

Supporters of the City Walk shelter on Mahan Drive came out to Wednesday’s City Commission meeting. More than dozen people voiced their concerns about Monday’s permit denial by the Development Review Committee.

Some residents of City Walk came to speak to commissioners in-person Wednesday.

“At City Walk I have a firm foundation, and somebody to talk to when I’m in need,” said one woman.

“We’re doing everything we can to do it right,” said one man.

Tony Miller, who works at City Walk, also spoke to Commissioners.

He argued that issues from December, when they first opened, don’t exist now.

“We addressed all the neighbors concerns, and we just needed more time to get more data from TPD to show you how things have been quieted down for 6 weeks now.”

However, businesses told WCTV as recently as last week that there were issues in the area.

Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox responded to some of the comments, reading a letter from the Big Bend Continuum of Care.

She says there is a staffing meeting Thursday afternoon to review each client staying at City Walk and find them a new place to stay.

“We do care. We care about these individuals and people having their freedoms to do as they choose, but we have to follow some processes, some protocols, and make sure people are assessed and that they get their needs serviced,” said Williams-Cox.

Commissioners discussed hosting a workshop with Leon County on homelessness, but the motion did not pass. Commissioner Jack Porter was strongly in favor, but others said they wanted to wait for the full strategic plan of the Big Bend Continuum of Care to be available, in order to fully understand the need in the community.

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