HIGH SPRINGS – Possible changes in the City’s budget discussed last week will likely affect everything from the police department to a potential Poe Springs partnership.  Commissioners met in a workshop Feb. 2 to consider budget amendments that were required because a planned wastewater rate hike was never instituted.

An anticipated transfer of $81,325 from the wastewater fund to the City’s general fund is expected to be taken out of the budget.  The decision comes after the current commission decided not to proceed with increasing wastewater rates.  Without the increased rates, the city would likely be unable to transfer the $81,325 to the general fund and make principle and interest payments on the wastewater system without depleting contingency funds.

If commissioners approve the budget adjustments as discussed, they would eliminate a police lieutenant position from the High Springs Police Department (HSPD) budget.  That cut would bring a savings of $71,558.  Mayor Dean Davis suggested at one point that perhaps officers should be promoted to lieutenant since it’s a salaried position and does not allow for overtime.  Although the position would be removed from the 2011/12 fiscal year budget, commissioners noted that the position may be added back in for the 2012/13 budget.

While HSPD appears to be losing one position, the amendments would call for increasing one part-time officer to full-time.  That brings an expected cost of $30,000.

Interim City Manager Jeri Langman proposed cutting a $1,200 annual mobile phone expense and placing it into a more flexible account that could be used for expenses such as lunches.  But when pressed by Commissioner Sue Weller as to what kind of expenses might be funded with the transfer, Langman said she couldn’t think of anything in particular.  That prompted the commission to plan on using the funds toward a scanner for use by the City Clerk to digitize records.

The City expects to realize a savings of $63,000 for dispatch services as a result of eliminating its own dispatch center and contracting with the Combined Communications Center run by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).  Not all commissioners are keen on the idea, however.  Commissioner Linda Gestrin said she has received numerous complaints from residents about the delay in response times.

About $5,500 would be cut from travel expenses across several departments.  The City anticipates a $4,000 savings in legal fees.  It has already realized some $8,600 in savings since it hasn’t hired a permanent city manager and another $13,500 since the recreation director position has been vacant.

At a cost of $5,500, the City plans on hiring crossing guards to assist High Springs Community School students crossing County Road 236.  Another $2,000 has been slated for an email backup and archive system.

The recent resignation of Commissioner Eric May means the City will be required to hold an election before the end of April, costing an estimated $2,500.

After hammering out details in a nearly two-hour-long workshop last week, the commission found $44,636 in excess that it plans to move to a contingency fund.  Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas has proposed pledging $20,000 of that contingency toward taking over management of Poe Springs Park, a project he’s pushed for several months.

The proposed budget amendments are on the agenda for the Feb. 9 commission meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m.