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Last updateWed, 17 Dec 2014 11pm

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Cuts, delays trim High Springs’ budget deficit

HIGH SPRINGS – The City of High Springs announced on Thursday that it has come up with a plan to cover the shortfall in general revenue funds predicted in late March.

On March 29, City Finance Services Director Helen McIver cautioned that the city could see revenues falling $75,000 short for the 2011-2012 fiscal year if the revenue inflow continued at the current pace.

She said the some of the concerns were due to shortfalls in budgeted franchise fees, tag agency and state revenue sharing. For the franchise fees, the city could miss the anticipated budget by $40,000, in large part because a 25-year contract with Clay Electric ended earlier this year.

During the April 19 city budget workshop, city manager Jeri Langman said city staff had pulled together some numbers to find places where each department could cut back spending. According to Langman, the city found $95,500 to cover the shortfall.

“Ms. McIver tells us last month that this is a fluid number,” Langman said. “Last month, we thought it was $75,000. It could be $63,000 or it could be nothing.”

Last month, the commission and McIver discussed projects that could be eliminated, such as repairs for city vehicles, as well as searching for unspent, undedicated funds elsewhere that could be transferred to the city’s general revenue fund.

Money remaining in contingency could be transferred, and the city has money set aside in savings, part of which covers two months’ operating costs in case of emergency, which could be used to ease revenue shortfalls.

In personnel expenses, city manager salary and benefits decreased from $75,000 to $55,000 when Langman was hired from. The city will see a $15,000 savings based on that reduction.

City clerk Jenny Parham will delay codifying the municipal code, which will save the city $4,000. Staff estimates a savings of $12,500 on the purchase of new police vehicles which were ordered in April, but were budgeted for the entire year. Another $10,000 will be recouped from funds budgeted for changing city street signs, but delays will extend the timeline.

Other areas the city will see a savings is in professional contract services, such as contracted engineers, city attorney fees, a phone system, cemetery maintenance and repair, and police contract services.

Langman hopes to use a portion of the funds to cover the cost of hiring a new assistant city clerk. Staff estimates a part-time clerk will cost $6,500, leaving the city with an estimated $81,500 remaining.

“They seem to be viable solutions,” Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas said. “But I have some concerns on some other things about the 2011-2012 budget.”

Despite finding the money to cover a shortfall in general revenue funds, McIver said that currently the sewer fund is running a $40,000 deficit.  With an estimated 1,100 current wastewater system users, the minimum bill for sewer charges should be $63.86 per user just to cover the cost of the sewer, said Barnas.

Barnas also said the city needs to examine the accumulation of vacation time by city employees. When the former city planner was recently terminated, McIver estimated the city owed him approximately $4,800 for over 100 hours of accumulated time.

Some employees, Barnas said, have huge amounts of time on the books. He said that City Attorney Raymond Ivey should examine the possibility for a cap or a “use it or lose it” policy.

Commissioner Scott Jamison said the Alachua County School Board has a policy that limits the amount of leave carried over from year to year.