Story and photos by JENNA BAILEY
The DeFuniak Springs (DFS) City Council held budget workshop meetings on July 23, July 30 and August 6. The purpose of the workshops were for the city council to discuss the 2019-2020 budget for the city. Budget discussion began with department presentations. Following department presentations was discussion of employee salaries; non-profit organizational requests; and general discussion.
On July 23, department presentations began with Fire Chief Charles Burney. Burney spoke on the fire department’s expenditures, justifications and budget requests. Fire department expenditures included repairs of machinery and equipment; uniforms; education and training; and physicals. Funding requests included a request for one fire fighter; a fire captain to assist Burney in day to day duties; a new chief vehicle; and an building-based exhaust removal system.
The justification for the request of an additional firefighter is for the purpose of having four firefighters per shift. The building-based exhaust removal system exchanges the air in the apparatus bays by pulling particulates and gases through a series of filters. Filtration systems are typically mounted to the ceiling and diesel emissions are forced through a series of disposable filters that trap particulates and chemically absorb other exhaust components.
On July 30, City Manager Mell Smigielski informed that the fire department will receive the additional fire fighter. The $157,000 equipment request was reduced to $75,000. Other DFS fire department budget requests were not addressed at the July 30 workshop.
Following Chief Burney was Police Chief James Hurley for discussion of the police department budget. Funding requests included better amenities and general repairs for the police department building; vehicles in better condition; surveillance operation/investigative equipment; a K-9 Unit; and vehicle aesthetic improvements (fresh paint etc.).
Hurley informed that there is a potential donor willing to cover the cost of the K-9. One purpose for the canine unit request is for assisting the police department in detecting illegal substances without entering a vehicle. The donor would cover the cost of the K-9 unit and the K-9 unit’s training. The city would need to pay for a K-9 unit vehicle.
At the July 30 meeting Smigielski informed that the city took the police department’s combined fleet and camera requests into a line item. The city will apply for grants to assist in financing the items.
After the police department presentation was discussion of the public works budget.
The July 23 meeting ended during the public works presentation and picked up where it left off at the July 30 meeting. Public Works Director Craig Drake informed the council of expenditures and budget requests regarding the multiple public works divisions such as sewer, gas, sanitation, cemetery, street maintenance, parks, and others.
Drake requested an employee for the cemetery and expressed the public works department’s need for equipment. Drake also expressed a need for an additional employee for the parks department. Currently, the parks department has two employees. Another request was for the council to allow for rescheduling employees throughout the week to lessen the amount of overtime public works employees perform.
Following the completion of the public works presentation was discussion of the planning department budget. Planning Director Kelly Schultz stated, “We are doing this budget different than what we have done in the past in making it goal-oriented in thinking about how to put it together.”
Schultz explained the purpose of the planning department for those that may not know. “It’s basically creating a vision for the community for today and for the future. The overall goal of planning is to maximize and help safety and economic well-being.” This includes making efforts to attract businesses and potential residents to DeFuniak Springs.
This year, the planning department is requesting an 48% increase in the budget. This is an $134,892 increase to what was requested last year. The planning department is requesting an additional employee to serve as an code enforcement assistant for the purpose of addressing concerns received from numerous people regarding code enforcement. The planning department is requesting a satellite phone for when phone lines may be down due to inclement weather or other unexpected incidents.
At the August 6 meeting were non-profit organizational requests for the year 2020. The American Red Cross of NW Florida requested $2,500. The Boys & Girls Club of the Emerald Coast requested $5,000. The Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood requested $2,000. The DeFuniak Little League Association requested $5,000. The DeFuniak Springs Woman’s Club requested $700. The Early Learning Coalition of the Emerald Coast requested $1,500. The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy center requested $2,000. The Florida Chautauqua Association requested $3,200. The Florida Chautauqua, Inc. requested $2,850. Grit & Grace requested $1,000. Main Street DeFuniak Springs requested $33,333. The Tivoli Historical Society requested $10,200. The Tri-County Community Council requested $27,000. VFW – Boy Scouts requested $2,700. The Walton County Athletic League requested $7,000. The Walton County Economic Development Alliance requested $16,170. The Walton County Heritage Association requested $2,000. The Matrix requested $10,000. Forward DeFuniak requested $2,000. The total balance of funding requests by non-profits is $136,153.