City Council Budget Sub-Committee: Councilors delve into minutiae of Marco Island’s municipal expenditures

Chairman Larry Magel, left, crunches the numbers.  Marco Island's City Council Budget Sub-Committee met again Thursday at City Hall, attempting to match city expenditures to falling revenues. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

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Chairman Larry Magel, left, crunches the numbers. Marco Island's City Council Budget Sub-Committee met again Thursday at City Hall, attempting to match city expenditures to falling revenues. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

— Did you ever take a look at your finances, to see if you could afford that new car, or maybe just keep putting gas in the old car? Multiply that headache by a thousand, and you have an idea what the Marco Island City Council Budget Sub-Committee goes through.

Thursday, they held another meeting in the conference room at City Hall, going through the city budget line by painstaking line. Chairman Larry Magel, and Councilmen Bill Trotter, and Wayne Waldack took a fine-tooth comb to items down to fax machine maintenance contracts, cellphone use by city employees, and embroidered logo shirts.

At the end of the process, the committee will make recommendations to the entire City Council. The council will hold budget workshops Aug. 1 and Aug. 15, and the budget for the next fiscal year, and the plan for the next five years, will be set. The result of this series of meetings will determine whether the police department gets new radios, what sidewalks and roads get upgraded – and what tax rate Marco residents will pay.

“It’s an exercise you go through, excruciating at some point, but you make sure that what’s requested is justified,” said Magel afterward.

City Manager Jim Riviere, and budget analyst Robert Lange, joined by Finance Director Patricia Bliss, sat across the table from the councilmen, along with a succession of city department heads, as each explained and defended their budget requests. Thursday’s meetings focused on capital improvement projects, CIP in the acronym-heavy language of budgeting, and the numbers quickly ran into the millions.

Public Works Director Timothy Pinter went first, presenting a list of projects to fund. Asked by Magel to prioritize his requests, Pinter specified resizing the San Marco/Heathwood intersection as number one, followed by the San Marco/Barfield intersection, resurfacing city streets, new vehicles for Public Works, and improving sidewalks and signals to provide safer routes to schools. The councilors made it clear that cuts are necessary, and everything is on the table.

“In this environment, good and need to have are two different things,” said Trotter. With property values, and therefore property tax receipts, down eight to nine percent, expenditures have to drop as well, he said.

“We didn’t anticipate another nine percent drop in property values. We ought to try to do everything we can to avoid raising the millage.”

Pinter pointed out that the city has many sidewalks that do not meet ADA standards.

“That is an unsafe, unhealthy condition for those kids,” he said. He stressed that maintenance of roads, if put off, will create higher expenses down the road, as the surfaces continue to deteriorate.

Trotter pointed out that for money that is spent, the conditions are favorable in some ways.

“Grants are available, because a lot of municipalities can’t afford the match,” unable to spend their own dollars to win matching funds. “And we’ve been getting such great prices from contractors recently.”

Police Chief Thom Carr was told by Magel “you asked for six vehicles, we’re going to give you three. Does that save us on the radar units?” Yes, said the Chief, saying “they’re just wore out” of the current radar guns.

On the City logo shirts, Riviere said “I much prefer they (city employees) be dressed so they are clearly city employees. Believe it or not, there are some residents who will pull a gun on you.” It was pointed out that in many cases, the employees buy the shirts, and the City pays only for the logo.

At the beginning of the meeting, there was some confusion, as participants flipped through their three-ring binders, trying to literally get on the same page. Before the meeting’s end, Riviere asked the Councilors to turn in their binders, so city staff could update them with new information that is being generated, and make sure they are up to date.

The City Council Budget Sub-Committee has scheduled their next meeting, set for June 22, to go all day, hoping that by the final meeting on July 6 they can get through all departments and finalize their recommendations for the council.

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Comments » 5

marcofriend writes:

Mr Pinter says that the condition of some sidewalks is so bad that it could be dangerous to children if the City doesn't do something now. I'd have to ask if they are so dangerous for children, what about all the missing sidewalks that the City doesn't force the owners to put in until they build on their lot? Everytime they mention "danger to childred", the City Council throws money at it-----like those must have bicycle paths that are so infrequently used.

This City has to quit using the Obama idea of throwing money that we don't have at everything.

It is also clear that the Parks and Recs Committee is still working very hard behind the scenes to put up the Mackle Park Taj Mahal without a referendum. Of course it is "almost free" because it will pay for itself, probably like the Racquet Ball facility does.

dc5799 writes:

Never mind the children, what about the senior's who have poor eyesight? As far as the bike paths go, dog's and their owners love them. And also the male dogs love those lights in Mackle park. It's like having their own hydrants

captnjimbo writes:

Need to have versus Nice to have...that is the question. There is 9% that could be put off until things turn around...and things are going to improve.

Aviaconsul writes:

It is high time the city gets rid of it's extra employees. After taxing us indirectly with heavy water & Sewer rates and a lot of unnecessary permit charges for doing any work on our homes they should be taking a hard look at the payroll and number of employees needed for the service they provide. I would suggest a referendum during the next elections that no family member of an existing employee should be allowed to work for the city.

ajm3s writes:

in response to marcofriend:

Mr Pinter says that the condition of some sidewalks is so bad that it could be dangerous to children if the City doesn't do something now. I'd have to ask if they are so dangerous for children, what about all the missing sidewalks that the City doesn't force the owners to put in until they build on their lot? Everytime they mention "danger to childred", the City Council throws money at it-----like those must have bicycle paths that are so infrequently used.

This City has to quit using the Obama idea of throwing money that we don't have at everything.

It is also clear that the Parks and Recs Committee is still working very hard behind the scenes to put up the Mackle Park Taj Mahal without a referendum. Of course it is "almost free" because it will pay for itself, probably like the Racquet Ball facility does.

To continue on your point, the City and Council do not understand the term: PRIORITIES.

If you read this article they discuss, such concerns as city logos on shirts, when in fact, they add to the list of misplaced expenditures, some under the prodding of matching grants.

Consider the fact, we have expanded the width of some roadways to create bike paths, yet we have to walk in the street where no sidewalks exists.

Now what would the folks consider to be a higher priority, putting in sidewalks and maintaining existing sidewalks or creating a bicycle path.

I am not against bicyclists, but I had to walk before I could ride a bike, so continuing on this simple mindset, I would have expected we would have finished the laying out of sidewalks on all streets before we should embark on a bicycle path network.

So let's break the city mindset of spending on things that do not address the basic needs of a city.

And in some cases that address basic needs, as in water and sewer, they create overcapacity. And I am supposed to now feel confident in management of a budget.

We have a very serious management problem because they have lost sight of fundamentals. So if the past, is our guide, I expect very little change. The Taj Mahal will be constructed and bike paths expanded, fountains created, the finest grasses in our soccer fields.

Is it fair to say management is weak when they cater to every special interest that can speak before the Council with 100 while a petition signed by over 1000 residents calling for a referendum on such a project is considered a threat to the power of Council.

Why?

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