If City staff thought the proposed budget with a 27% property tax increase would be rubber stamped by City Commissioners, they were proved wrong in the morning session of the workshop.
The purpose of the meeting was to focus on the budget specifics so staff could get an idea if the City Commissioners were going to support the City Manager’s budget proposal that calls for a 27% increase in property taxes.
The City Commission will vote to set a tentative millage rate at tomorrow’s City Commission meeting.
After hearing from members of the public, the City staff made a presentation on a couple of issues and then the City Commissioners got involved.
The first expenditure challenged was the $600,000 for police officer body camera’s.
City Commissioner Maddox bluntly said “it just costs too much.”
Mayor Gillum, who remained silent for much of the workshop, tried to save the project, but Maddox and the other three commissioners voiced opposition to the expenditure.
City Commissioner Nancy Miller lobbied for a significant cut to the TAPP program which started years ago with a $50,000 expenditure but had ballooned to $240,000 in the 2016 budget.
Commissioner Miller, with a majority of Commissioners, appeared to support $120,000 cut to the program.
Commissioner Gil Ziffer floated the idea of a 2% raise instead of the 3% proposed increase.
The cut would save approximately $800,000.
It appeared a majority of commissioners would support the cut, including Commissioner Curtis Richardson and Commissioner Nancy Miller.
However, the morning session ended with rapid fire questions directed at city staff by City Commissioner Scott Maddox.
He started with the Mayor’s budget. “Why has the Mayor’s budget increased over last year – what is that for”?
Staffs response was, “we will have to look into that”.
That was the response to many of Maddox’s inquires which included questions on spending in the city managers office, in the public works department, on economic development projects, and in Cascades Park.
Staff was clearly on their heals and the workshop underscored problems with the budget process that have been raised by Commissioners Maddox, Miller and Ziffer over the last few weeks.
Their complaint is that commissioners do not get budget specifics so that priorities can be established and spending decisions can be questioned.
Despite the proposed cuts, when it came to settling on a proposed millage rate, few minds had changed.
Mayor Gillum and City Commissioner Richardson appear ready to support the City Managers proposal, a 27% property tax increase.
While it is clear Commissioner Maddox will vote against any increase, Commissioner Ziffer was prepared to cut the increase by 25%.
Commissioner Miller stated that the full increase was not much of a burden for tax payers and offered a .85 mill or approximately$7.5 million increase.
The vote on the tentative millage rate will take place at tomorrow’s City Commission meeting.