Despite Spirited Discussion, Few Minds Changed at City’s Budget Workshop

Despite Spirited Discussion, Few Minds Changed at City’s Budget Workshop

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.

22 Responses to "Despite Spirited Discussion, Few Minds Changed at City’s Budget Workshop"

  1. I feel like this is my job to point out where the budget can be adjusted – wait – that is our elected officials job.
    I could go on – not even 1/4 of way through entire budget, but I have to work to pay all the taxes and fees charged by the City to live here.

    1. Great job. Didn’t I hear someone (maybe Preston) say there is a new position in the ethics office for an adminsitrative assistant? Isn’t the ethics officer already housed in the attorney’s office? Why can’t they share an administrative assistant there and save another 30-40 thousand or whatever that is?

  2. $1,200,000

    Live Oak Plantation Road/Timberlane School Road
    Sidewalks. This project involves the construction of sidewalks on one side of the road on Live Oak Plantation Road and a portion of Timberlane School Road which lies within the City limits.

  3. 2016 – $ 5 Million (already spent 28 million, $5 million in 2016 and more in future years)
    This project involves the construction of a new 1.3 mile extension of FAMU Way from Wahnish Way to Lake Bradford Road and improvements to
    existing FAMU Way between Monroe Street and Wahnish Way to achieve the same standard.

  4. 2016 – $50,000

    In October of 2014, the City Commission adopted the Wayfinding Plan, and staff has since worked with the Public Works Department to begin
    implementation. While funding for some of the signs was identified at time adoption, a shortfall for Downtown, Southside, and Gateway signs was
    noted. Completion of this program is identified as a City Commission priority.

  5. 2016 – $400,000

    This project is to improve and modernize the Airport Passenger Terminal in the post 9/11 environment to allow for the optimization of airport non-aeronautical revenues from concessions and retail outlets as well as food and beverage and to accommodate growth and provide improved
    amenities for passengers in the near term. Potential new vertical circulation and treatments to the second level sterile/non-sterile. This project provides for improvements to the building structure, mechanical equipment, fire safety, electrical, restrooms, doors, baggage handlers and ceiling and floor finishes. It will be based on a Strategic Terminal Master Plan.

  6. 2016 – $50,000
    To enhance offerings to customers, the Airport conducts various studies and promotions. This project will assist in attracting new and retaining
    current customers.

  7. 2016- $25,000

    This is a project is to provide for business and economic development at the Tallahassee Regional Airport that encompasses studies, development
    of marketing strategies and promotional materials including print and digital media and participating in events to advertise opportunities as the

  8. 2016 – $600,000

    Air Service Improvement Program
    This is a project to improve airline service at Tallahassee Regional Airport that encompasses the market segment analysis, other studies, air
    service workshops, and direct contact that identifies air service opportunities that may result in formal and/or informal air service proposals and the provision of incentives for new service or needed competition to a key market as identified by the Airport Air Service Consultant

  9. This Capital Improvement project of the city will place six (6) cameras over the six (6) Revenue Cashiers.

    6 cameras – only $20,000 dollars

  10. 578.9 million 2013 Budget Revenues
    618.9 million 2014 Budget Revenues
    621.2 million 2015 Budget Revenues
    641.8 million 2016 (proposed Budget Revenues)

    City wants to/will grow budget Revenues by 62.9 million over 4 years.

  11. Where(not to cut budget) not to grow gov’t
    $133,860 New public Educator Position – fire
    $ 57,457 new lost and found coordinator
    $104,123 new promise zone administrator
    $ 95,948 new principal planner position
    $273,621 new “sense of place” proj maint crew (2)
    $ 92,270 new utility marketing position
    $671,923 StarMetro special projects
    $ 94,205 application developer position for clerk
    $684,319 Management and Admin salaries for new jobs

    1. Why exactly does the utility department need a marketing position? We don’t have a choice on which utility company to use, we have to use either Talquin or the City depending on where we live.

    2. The folks hired to fill these positions will be able to afford the tax increase levied to fund their salaries. Some handsome wages listed here!

  12. Total Revenues for City of Tallahassee:
    2015 – $621,167,745
    2016 – $641,795,502 (proposed)

    Increase in Revenues (taxes and other methods)
    $20.6 Million Dollars

    Non-approved service level changes for police:
    $1.46 million dollars

    What’s the other 19.14 million for?

  13. Didn’t the people just vote for higher taxes? Why should we be surprised if the politicians do likewise? Better to just move west than try and change Tallahassee.

  14. Take a hard, objective look at Tallahassee relative to the State of Florida. We have:
    1. The worst crime rate in the state (Forbes Magazine recently put Tallahassee on the list of “America’s Most Dangerous Cities”). Murders and/or the discovery of bodies occur almost weekly.
    2. The highest utility rate in the state.
    3. As it now stands, we may soon have the highest property tax rate in the state.

    Given the above conditions and the city commission we have (the same one that got us into this situation):
    1. Why would any business or large corporation wish to locate here? Why would an existing one choose to expand or remain here?
    2. How many individuals and families with the financial means will choose to invest their futures (and their incomes) in another Florida city? Several of my Killearn neighbors have already moved away, citing the increasing cost of living, taxes, crime etc.
    3. How many families will choose other Florida universities and colleges to send their kids to? I certainly wouldn’t let my two daughters attend FSU now (as they did years ago) with the reputation for crime that Tallahassee has.

    When the local economy slows to a crawl (as it’s now doing) and the enrollment at FSU and other schools begins to seriously decline, perhaps the electorate of Tally will wake up and realize we need better people governing the city. Tallahassee could be a wonderful place to live, but it’s destined to economic decline and increasing crime if it doesn’t change course, and soon.

  15. “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 above statement just goes to show the disconnect between Commissioner Miller and the REAL world where there are those of us on fixed incomes who must make a cut (medicine, food) in order to cover escalating taxes.

  16. Elections have consequences and too many people locally stayed home the last time you had a chance to put more fiscally responsible people in office. It seems that four of them are incapable of understanding that you fund core services, FIRST! Then you can sit around and try and explain why you need to raise taxes for the ridiculous things that are in the budget. BTW: Remember, the County wants to increase the sales tax and make us the highest in the state. The combination, plus the confiscation of money by the COT through the utility and waste collection provide quite an incentive to business to move here.

  17. Scott Maddox seems to be the only one of the commissioners whose seeks to do what is in the best interest of the city’s taxpayers! For businesses and homeowners to have to shoulder a 27% tax increase is a travesty! If our tax dollars were not wasted on such frivolous projects as the unnecessary pedestrian bridge, the non-essential Smokey Hollow and the piece of junk art on Gaines Street,(to mention only a few!) the necessary funds would be available for services that are truly needed! The city is receiving plenty of tax dollars – the problem is irresponsible spending!!

    1. FACT: We could fund all the proposed new police officer positions 10-plus times over with the overage generated by excessive utility fees. Zero out the rest of the frills, and BINGO:
      Is it legally possible to have a recall campaign against these tax-and-spenders? Like Kalifornia did to replace their Governor?
      I did not vote for ANY of these commissioners. Scott seems to be the only sensible one, hope he does not bail for skrewel superintendent.
      And if Nancy has a Twitter account, an appropriate avatar for her would be a photo of a deer lit up by headlights.

      1. “Commissioner Miller stated that the full increase was not much of a burden for tax payers…”
        Wonder if I can forward my property tax bill to her then? Nancy, can you get your address to me by November? Thanks in advance!

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