Indian Rocks Beach Grapples With Budget, Terminates Finance Director
Final budget due before Nov. 1
By Bill Lopez
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- After some hectic moments in budgeting revenue and expenses for Indian Rocks Beach, city commission members voted 3 to 2 to end the employment contract with City Finance Director Martin Schless effective November 15, 2008. The position will be advertised in the next few days and a replacement sought to fill the position.
Indian Rocks Beach struggled with city finances for the past year after failing to properly estimate the cost of sewer and solid waste services. During recent commission meetings, the city changed millage rates and adjusted the expenditures for police services, which are contracted with the county sheriff’s department, and has yet to finalize the exact budget for the fiscal year that began October 1, 2008.
Three of the city's commissioners expressed reservations over Schless's performance citing the need for the finance director to keep the commission better informed on the state of the city's finances. Some references were also made about a check issuance to a former city manager that should have been directed to a moving company and Schless's failure to attend certain staff meetings as additional factors in ending his contract.
During the past two years, the city experienced increased costs in sewer and waste disposal services while taxable valuations of property in the city declined. Property values in 2007 amounted to $1.186 billion and decreased by 11% to $1.054 billion this year resulting in less property tax revenue. At the same time, millage rates in Indian Rocks Beach have declined over the past several years from a high of 2.5 in 2002 to 1.6 in 2008.
To deal with declining property values and higher costs, the commission settled on a millage rate of 2.0 for the next fiscal year increasing revenues from property taxes from $1.6 million to approximately $2.1 million.
In 2009, the city will alter the level of police service with the sheriff's office. In 2008, the contract provided six deputies with relief and two deputies per shift 24 hours per day for seven days per week. The cost for this level of service for 2009 would be $858,181. In a previous commission meeting, commissioners adopted a different plan that calls for five deputies with relief and one deputy with no relief providing two deputies per shift for five days per week and two deputies per shift for two shifts and one deputy for the third shift for the other two days. The commission approved this at a cost of $803,638 that added $88,000 to the budget.
These and other modifications are being calculated by the city staff and a final budget will be released before the end of the month.
Contact Bill Lopez at email@example.com.
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