The New Port Richey City Council gave final approval Monday to the city budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
It was not a happy occasion.
The $44 million fiscal year 2013 budget, which takes effect Oct. 1, calls for the layoffs of city employees, some of whom are full-time. Acting City Manager Doug Haag says eight filled positions to be eliminated are currently filled by employees. Two more positions would be reduced from full to part-time. Another 10 unfilled positions would be frozen.
"I don't think any of us like (the budget)," said Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe. "The question is whether we can stomach it."
Mayor Bob Consalvo has held elected positions with the city for years and was an employees of the Parks and Rec Department before that.
"This is the most difficult budget I’ve ever had to deal with,” he said.
The council approved the budget 4-1.
“After tonight, I don’t want to even hear the word ‘budget,’” said Councilman Bob Langford, the only elected leader to vote against the spending plan.
The City Council also raised the city millage rate from 8.38 to 9.57 mills.
“I don’t know that anybody is really happy, but hopefully we’ll be able to get through this year and see improvement for next,” said Councilwoman Judy DeBella Thomas.
The city cuts include:
- one full-time librarian reduced to part-time at the New Port Richey Public Library. Layoffs of two part-time specialists at the library,
- Two part-time development receptionists
- Layoff of a full-time aquatics coordinator and a parks maintenance worker
- Layoff of an administrative assistant in the finance department who has been urging the city leaders to look past her job title to see how much she does for the city.
A small audience was present to see the budget passed, and they expressed concerns.
Katrina Enoch, an International Bacccalaureate student at Gulf High, hosts regular free movie showings at the New Port Richey public Library. Her mother is a volunteer there.
“I believe not being able to give anything back into the library will be to the city's detriment," she said.
The budget approved Monday was the result of months of negotiations and discussion.
Jim Perez, a former police officer in the city, pointed out that the city is looking at layoffs but recently hired a marketing manager for the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, which has never been able to cover its costs.
"How do you justify doing that?" he asked.
DeBella Thomas said the marketing manager is something that could help the center and ultimately market the city.
“I think this is going to lay the groundwork for a solid plan of marketing," said DeBella Thomas.
Councilma Bill Phillips said that city leaders did their due diligence, drilling into every department and looking at every way hey could find dollars. With those dollars, they saved some positions from the chopping block.
"We went as far as we could," he said.
The city also has to contend with debt from real estate purchases it has failed to unload, he said.
Haag said that the projections of the five-year deficit for the city have been reduced to
Marlowe said he's not happy that people are losing their jobs or that the city can't give more back into the library.
"I don't think any of us are happy with it, but I believe the council has done what it need to do to get us through an extraordinarily difficult year," he said.
Haag said that the city's five year deficit projection has been reduced from its estimated $17 million thanjs to the budget decisions.
Over the course of budget negotiations, officials have added back into the budget some positions and services, including:
- a swim coach
- Year-round use of the rec center lap pool
- a custodian for the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center
- a part-time custodian for the police department
- two positions for debris collection in public works