MARCO ISLAND — Marco is to take a closer look at what the city needs and what is just a want as the city approaches budget season.
Islanders got their first glimpse at the city budget with a brief overview by City Manager Steve Thompson, which he called “holding the line,” earlier this month — but Wednesday, Finance Director Patricia Bliss and Thompson will lead a discussion presenting the budget in more detail in the first of a series of workshops in August and September.
Councilman Ted Forcht has said he thinks it is time to continue projects that have already started and must be completed, continue ensuring health and safety, and hold off on just about everything else as the community suffers through an economy that is wreaking havoc on Southwest Florida and the nation.
Thompson presented some key aspects of the proposed budget, including the addition of two employees in the finance department.
Some say the additions to the payroll are long overdue, others say it’s over the top to hire more employees at a time when other cities are cutting back.
When the city hired a forensic audit firm, James Moore, to audit the Collier Boulevard project earlier this year, a recommendation was to hire more finance department personnel. The firm recommended at least one person to serve in a position between the finance director and the controller.
“Just one, not the two people recommended in the budget,” says Amadeo Petricca, a member of the Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association Board.
“Government is the only one hiring people right now, but then they don’t have to pay for it — we do,” Petricca added.
Councilman Wayne Waldack said he thinks hiring two more finance personnel is justified.
“Two more people will eliminate the problems of the past. When you try to do it on the cheap, you have what happened,” Waldack said.
What happened, he added, wasn’t a serious crime, but was a collection of errors and messy accounting on the Collier Boulevard reconstruction project, which spanned about seven years and cost more than $40 million.
Council will be looking at how much of the budget is a necessity and what can be delayed in this economy, as Marco approaches the 2010 city budget. After Wednesday, the next scheduled budget workshop is 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Aug. 12. Final budget hearings are to be held in September.
The full budget, as currently proposed by city staff, is in the related links.
The budget workshop is scheduled 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Wednesday, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.