By ELIZABETH SINCLAIR
DeFuniak Springs, FL– The final public hearing for the DeFuniak Springs 2017 budget was held Sept. 27. Although there had previously been discussion between staff and the city council to raise the ad valorem to 5 mills, it is set at 4.5, the same as 2016. The revenue from the property taxes would be $974,945. Additional sources bring the city’s revenue to $ 17.3 million. Transfers and reserves bring the budget to $24.7 million.
Other revenue sources include utilities. Gas rates were raised 8.5 percent over three years to adjust for the city’s running in the red in providing service. According to the publicized budget summary, the operating budget for 2017 is 6.5 percent less than last year.
In a special meeting held prior to the hearing, the 2017 budget was amended to reflect a hike in sewer rates. The adjustment, Resolution 2016-14, came at the recommendation of Florida Rural Water Association. Residential and commercial rates on all tiers of usage would go up 10 percent each year for three years, 2017, 2018 and 2019, becoming effective Oct 1, 2016. There would be a 25 percent per month surcharge on all users outside the city limits. The resolution requires a public hearing.
Expenditures include a 50-cent hourly raise for all employees, the executive and the administration. In August, Interim City Manager Tilman Mears had proposed a 10 hour/four day a week for the city hall and city hall annex employees, stating that, where it’s been implemented morale has increased. the cost of fuel, electricity and overtime would be reduced. Mears stated operation hours would remain the same of Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the employees working 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The council approved a six-month trial on August 22. There are five potential positions to be hired during the year, including one in planning, one in finance, one in the fire department, one as a waste water treatment plant operator and, in administration, a grant writer.
The city will provide $26,770 dollars and garbage pickup to the Life Enrichment Senior Center. The funds will be divided into quarterly payments. Walton County provides $12,938. This is through an interlocal agreement. Funds go through Tri-County Community Council, day-to-day operator of the center.