Citizens’ input sought on city finances, 2010 taxes

Financial planning committee reviews top 10 city services

City Manager Steve Thompson shares how he might approach gauging the community's desire for city financing in 2010. Upon request of the financial planning committee Tuesday, Thompson said he would ask what residents' desires for taxes would be.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL

City Manager Steve Thompson shares how he might approach gauging the community's desire for city financing in 2010. Upon request of the financial planning committee Tuesday, Thompson said he would ask what residents' desires for taxes would be.

Financial planning for Marco Island began early this year with a committee looking at what expenses could be cut and what city services are most desired by residents.

The committee met Tuesday afternoon reviewing the top 10 services provided by each of the five city departments.

Taxpayers are invited to attend an open house between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Monday, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

The purpose of the meeting is to share what the committee has learned and obtain input from residents.

Finance committee member Irv Pavlow has been working with Community Development Director Steve Olmsted to review what a 20 percent cut in that department would look like and what increased efficiencies are possible.

Pavlow said there is great concern about the building services office because there is at least a $500,000 deficit this year and the reserves are down $700,000 from last year.

There was once $2.2 million in building services’ reserves and now there is $1.5 million.

“Also Public Works employees are being charged to building services. (City employees) are saying they don’t think there’s a legal right for that,” Pavlow said.

At least two employee’s salaries, including Public Works Director Rony Joel and superintendent Angelo Ubertaccio are being charged to building services instead of the public works department, Pavlow reported.

He added that although some permit fees increased this year, the increased fees are not enough to cover expenses.

“We can’t sustain this kind of loss another year. We will reduce,” said City Manager Steve Thompson.

He added that cross-training to use building services officials in the under-staffed code enforcement office is also in the works.

Pavlow suggested getting reimbursement for code officers’ and police officers’ time by increasing the fines they give for violations such as noise.

Finance committee member Steve Stefanides warned of the potential of Marco becoming notorious for being “most unfriendly” if those types of policies and procedures are put in place.

“What you’re recommending (Pavlow) is zero tolerance for complaints,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that it could be done, but nodded in agreement to Stefanides’ concern.

Stefanides has been working with Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk on looking at cutting costs by increasing efficiencies. He said he saw potential in looking at various organizations providing services similar to the city’s.

“We don’t need to have three or four (groups) providing the same programs. Let’s be creative with the assets we have here and get them working together,” Stefanides said.

He organized a meeting between Milk and members of Marco Island Charter Middle School, YMCA and Optimist Club to begin plans to better share Island recreation and athletic resources. Stefanides reported that Milk was very receptive to the idea of working with the groups.

As the meeting came to a wrap, Stefanides asked what Thompson thought about the committee’s approach to the 2010 financial planning process.

“I might suggest looking at taxes, if residents want taxes to stay constant to maintain revenues, I’d also ask if the spending cap should be part of this discussion,” Thomspon responded.

Share your thoughts on taxes and city spending at the financial planning open house held 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

Department directors will be presenting their top 10 services and what potential spending cuts might look like in terms of service reductions. Visitors will likely be divided into smaller groups to visit each department’s presentation area, said city Public Information Coordinator Lisa Douglass.

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