Bayshore redevelopment director may be let go, willingly, to save agency money

David Jackson, executive director of the Bayshore-Gateway Triangle CRA

David Jackson, executive director of the Bayshore-Gateway Triangle CRA

The Collier County Commission meets beginning at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the commission chambers at the county government complex, corner of Airport-Pulling Road and U.S. 41 East.

— David Jackson has decided which employee needs to go to help the East Naples community redevelopment district address its financial troubles.

He does.

Collier County commissioners, acting in their role as the board of directors of the Bayshore Community Redevelopment Agency, are scheduled Tuesday to discuss the termination of Jackson's contract as the agency's executive director.

The request is coming with support from the Bayshore agency's advisory board, provided the county terminate Jackson "without cause in accordance with the severance terms of the contract."

Jackson, who was hired as the CRA's executive director in 2005, said he recommended that the commission let him go to avoid seeing two or more other employees laid off.

The termination, which is due to budget considerations affecting the CRA, would take effect within 60 to 90 days in order to provide adequate time for a transition. Under the terms of Jackson's contract, the county would have to pay him six months of his base salary, which is $124,927.

Chuck Gunther, the CRA advisory board member who made the motion to terminate Jackson's contract, said the board has no cause for requesting that Jackson's contract be terminated and said the board believes Jackson has been a good executive director. In the end, it came down to budget issues.

"To put it nicely, the commission has been after his head for a while," Gunther said. "Do you put three people out on the street or do you put (out) David Jackson, who could get another job easily, who has a military pension. He's a good commodity. You keep the people who need to work. You cut the high end."

The decision came at a Feb. 28 meeting when the advisory board reviewed a plan of action presented by the Collier County Finance Committee.

Under the terms of David Jackson's contract, the county would have to pay him six months of his base salary, which is $124,927.

Specifically, the board discussed eliminating discretionary CRA programs, expenditures and contracts until refinancing is resolved; focusing resources on the financial problem; enacting a hiring freeze; and evaluating the situation in 90 days.

Jackson said the termination decision came after the advisory board cut all of the operations and grant commitments it could, but "we still couldn't meet our budget goals."

That left personnel. The advisory board looked at all of its options, from letting one person go to letting five people go, then decided it was best to fire one person or two, Jackson said.

Jackson said the recommendation made by the advisory board was made because it achieved three goals. It achieved the CRA board's plan of action to "focus resources on the financial problem"; it developed a fiscal 2013 and 2014 budget plan based on the data that achieves the budget goal; and it kept the CRA office operating during the transition period of fiscal 2013 to 2016 as the county's economy recovers.

What is spurring this decision is whether the Bayshore CRA will be able to pay back a $13.8 million loan it took out to purchase property within the CRA boundaries between 2006 and 2011.

Selling property the CRA owns could offset the debt and maybe free up more dollars for program purposes. But the Collier County Property Appraiser's records value the land at about $4.4 million and the CRA currently owes $10.2 million on the loan.

The CRA brought in $2.3 million in tax revenue in 2008, compared with $996,000 for fiscal 2012. Loan payments alone are about $900,000 annually.

The CRA brought in $2.3 million in tax revenue in 2008, compared with $996,000 for fiscal 2012. Loan payments alone are about $900,000 annually.

Jackson's salary being what it is, the CRA is in the red before it pays its four other employees.

Last month, Collier commissioners decided to halt discretionary spending in the redevelopment agency for 90 days while county Finance Director Mark Isaacson works to refinance the CRA's loan.

The move means that no CRA loans for residential improvements will be given out in the next three months. The residential program was halted because homes within the East Naples district haven't been able to provide an economic stimulus.

The CRA is, however, giving improvement grants to commercial property owners because those dollars are showing a return on the CRA's investments.

Bayshore isn't alone in its financial woes.

Roger Reinke, assistant Naples city manager and the CRA director for the city, said the CRA's revenue has dropped 30 percent in the last three or four years.

"We do have loans. Our debt service is about 48 percent of our operating budget," he said. "It's reduced our future capacity for capital improvements."

Reinke said to reduce costs, the city's redevelopment agency eliminated one administrative position, as well as a maintenance and right-of-way position. A few years ago, the city did away with its full-time CRA director. Reinke now acts as the director, and 30 percent of his salary comes from the CRA.

Penny Phillippi, executive director of the Immokalee CRA, said her organization doesn't have debt.

"Our business development center runs 100 percent on grant funds,'' she said of the agency that has three employees and gets money from a municipal services taxing district.

Phillippi said her organization has purchased land, like the Bayshore CRA, but did it with grants.

Gunther said he believes the East Naples redevelopment agency will keep going, even if county commissioners agree to terminate Jackson.

"I think it might make the board more hands-on, which may help," said Gunther, who has served on the advisory board for 10 years. "A CRA should be for the people of the area, so if you involve the people, the people will make their own decision. We want to go forward."

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features