Tallahassee Reports has learned that City Manager Rick Fernandez counted the salary from a position that had not been filled since 2014 as savings to justify the raises he gave to a select group of executive managers.
Last week, City Manager Rick Fernandez went before City Commissioners to explain the 5-digit raises that resulted in annual salaries reaching $175,000 for five individuals. The City Commissioners, after hearing the presentation, offered overwhelming support for the City Manager’s actions.
One of the arguments Fernandez used to sway the Commissioners was the amount of savings that resulted from the reorganization through the elimination of ten positions. Fernandez told the City Commissioners that the savings were approximately $900,000.
However, new findings raise serious questions about the savings.
Through a pubic record request, TR received information about the 10 positions and the associated salaries that the City Manager claimed were saved in the reorganization.
TR has verified that one of the names on the list, and referenced as an eliminated position with savings of approximately $92,000, was for a city employee that retired on July 31, 2014.
The employee, Greg Wilkerson, told TR:
“I was shocked to see that my name was included as part of the savings for the City’s reorganization. I retired from the city on 7/31/14. I continued working on a temporary basis until 10/31/15. At that time Anita Favors-Thompson was the City Manager. During the final few weeks of my temporary employment, I was limited to 20 hours per week, and my monthly income was approximately $3600/month, with no benefits.”
Before retiring, Mr. Wilkerson had worked with the City for eleven years.
This information shows that the position had not cost the City of Tallahassee $92,000 since 2014, yet was presented to the City Commission as reorganization savings for 2016.
In addition, TR has determined that two positions that the City Manager claimed were eliminated, actually resulted in two city employees being transferred to vacant positions and remaining on the General Fund payroll. Their salaries were presented as savings to City Commissioners.
These findings raise questions about the integrity of the presentation made by City Manager Fernandez. TR is still working with salary information and will soon have a detailed accounting of the City’s reported $900,000 in savings.
Ok, its been awhile since this story first broke but I just learned that my daughter who worked for the city part time last summer at a summer camp making just above minimum wage, has a few hundred dollars in a retirement account from working during the summer.
Why on earth is the city creating and contributing to a retirement account for a part time temp employee? That doesnt make sense and is just a waste of money.
How many other kids are receiving this benefit? This is something we could cut and save money on.
You’re right. I shouldn’t be commenting on the mechanics of budgeting. So, back to my original point – I believe that the permanent elimination of positions has a direct correlation to the amount of money the City needs to operate.
For us regular folks, the uninformed masses, that just seems obvious.
Trent, based on your response, you really don’t understand the budget process. Not surprising, as most people don’t. That lack of understanding is a major weapon in the spinmasters’ arsenals.
“Unspent or encumbered” – who said the money wasn’t spent? Are we to believe that the funding for this position remained untouched throughout the year? With over 1,000 employees under the General Fund and department heads requesting promotions, reclassifications, etc. for deserving employees throughout the year? Isn’t that where that money would come from? Isn’t that the payroll cushion that the State refers to “rate” ?
A vacant position is not budgeted at the salary of the incumbent at the time they leave the office. It is budgeted at either The Max Hire Rate or the Pay Band Minimum. In either case, a MUCH smaller number.
Also, at the risk of being to wonkish, a position that remains open for greater than a year is budget neutral. In preparing estimates for revenues needed in any given fiscal year, you start with unspent or unencumbered monies from the current fiscal year.
Do you really think Fernandez doesn’t understand this basic budgetary concept?
BEC – There are plenty of reasons to be angry. You don’t need to manufacture reasons. TR is looking for that “gotcha” moment. This isn’t one of them.
Simple, you are either a Friend Of Rick, or you’re not. Or a Friend Of Andrew. Or you’re not.
If you count a dogs tail as a leg how may legs does that dog have?
TR – if the salary and benefits are in the budget, and revenue projections (taxes, fees, transfers from utility revenues, etc.) are there to cover that budget, then permanent elimination of the position certainly leads to reduction in monies required to fund operations in all subsequent years.
It’s not like I’m “in the know”, as my dad used to say. This just seems obvious to me and I suspect is also obvious to you. I agree with the backlash regarding the raises and how this whole reorg was presented. But slamming Fernandez on this particular aspect of his presentation is without merit.
Ricardo is in charge of the budget, Ricardo gave the raises & Ricardo gave the presentation to the commissioners.
So tell me, who should get “slammed”?
“Just me” and Trent might be technically correct that vacant positions are funded in the city’s annual budget, but the vacancies should be accurately discounted to reflect the time it takes to fill the vacancy. A position not filled in 2 years is not a real vacancy; it is just a pressure valve for budget shortfalls. The practice distorts the expenditure picture for the public and therefore the need for revenue, and as a matter of policy should not be included in the budget.
For example, a position that pays $100,000 that is expected to take 6 months to fill would be budgeted at $100,000 but would be discounted by 50% or -$50,000 if it is estimated to take 6 months to fill.
However, Budget Hawks discovered last year that vacant positions were carried for years in past budgets with no expectation of filling the position in the current budget year, and were only partially discounted. Hopefully, that practice has ceased. Here are some examples of vacancies that we believe were funded in the 2015 budget.
Public Works Engineering Civil Engineer 1462 days
Traffic Senior Exec Asst 2148 days
Elecric Hoplins Plant Power Plant 874 days
Gas Admin Meter Service Tech 510 days
Staff and commissioners can avoid taxpayers drawing the wrong conclusion by being totally transparent in all public financial matters. When in doubt, show more not less.
Has anyone compared the pension and benefits cost of the new organizational structure to the cost before the raises? The city manager’s claim to an immediate savings may have a greater future cost. The city is writing checks our children will have to try to cash.
Just me (above) is right. If the position was funded (even if vacant), it’s elimination is a savings. That is the same at the County and State also. Basic accounting and financial planning for most organizations.
Therefore, I wouldn’t question the integrity of the presentation based on this issue. There may be plenty of reasons to distrust the City’s management, but it hurts your credibility when you become “the boy who cries wolf”.
For regular folks, please explain how you spend $92,000 on a position that has been vacant since 2014? If it is vacant who gets the money? If it is just a paper transaction, then are savings actual?
WHY CAN’T OUR CITY LEADERS SIMPLY TELL THE TRUTH. STEVEN HOUGLAND WILL!!!!!
Stop voting for Democrats. Biggest bunch of liars since Satan lied to Eve.
Surely no one is surprised!
The position itself typically continues to be fully funded in any particular budget year, whether filled or not. Elimination of the position is a savings of the money that continued to be funded, rather than planning to fill it using the continued funding.
This no surprise. Fernandez does not tell the truth to further his agenda. It is obvious to the people but not to the Commissioners – why is that? We need honesty, transparency and change. Where are the leaders?
Imagine believing that Ms. Favors-Thompson would be an improvement over someone else as City Manager. But Mr. Fernandez’ actions are leading me to believe what I imagined I could never believe.
You should look at the pay rate for the Jan Auger that works for hilaman golf course and see if she’s gotten a crazy raise. The city manager and her are close friends.