By REID TUCKER
The city of DeFuniak Springs’ could face an on-paper budget deficit of up to $526,000 due in large part to the $300,000-plus needed to cover required increases in insurance costs.
The exact amount of the increase and how that amount will be spread across the various city departments remained unknown at the City Council’s July 30 budget workshop, but will be discussed at future meetings. The remaining shortfall of $240,788 comes from the difference between Fiscal Year 2014’s projected expenditures of $14,978,178 and projected revenues of $14,737,390. Despite having to once more deal with the prospect of dipping into reserves to balance the budget, the projected shortfall is considerably less than the roughly $1.5 million deficit of two years ago, and future workshop sessions may result in more cost-saving measures.
The Council made several recommendations, some aimed at cutting costs, at the July 30 workshop as to how the budget-making process should progress until final approval before the start of the fiscal year in September. The board members’ biggest deduction from the tentative budget was to eliminate the request for $98,700 needed to hire a full-time building inspector, whose compensation package, including benefits, would check in at $78,000. Also included in the full amount were $18,000 needed to finance a vehicle and an annual operating budget of $16,800.
Other recommendations by the board gave the go-ahead on big-ticket item requests such as $180,000 for refurbishing the former Walton County Health Department building for the future headquarters of the DeFuniak Springs Police Department and a spate of salary increases for city employees. Salaries are projected to rise at a rate 3 percent across the board, while non-public safety supervisors will get a minimum yearly increase of $3,000 effective September 2014, a move in keeping with a request from the Council to bring those supervisors within the same pay grade. The city manager, city marshal and finance director positions will also see a $3,000 bump to their salaries, while City Council members and the mayor will get their pay increased by a total amount of $960 per year.
Compared to FY2013’s budget, actual year-to-date expenditures are $10,916,685 less than budgeted, and FY2014’s budgeted expenditures are $8,963,451 less than last fiscal year. Revenues are also down, however. Actual revenues for FY2013 are shown to be $1,807,280 less than projected in that fiscal year’s budget, and FY2014’s projects a $7,253,940 drop from the year-to-date figure and a reduction of just more than $9 million from the FY2013 budgeted amount.
The City Council held its next budget workshop, this time dealing with departmental requests, Tuesday, Aug. 6. A report of the developments at that workshop will feature in next week’s edition of the DeFuniak Herald/Beach Breeze.