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City commission gets first look at FY22 budget; likely includes 9% increase in fire assessment fee

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

During today’s Gainesville City Commission Special Budget Meeting, the commissioners were walked through a presentation on the General Government budget. The overview included a $1.8 million revenue deficit for FY20; the City has requested funding to cover that revenue loss through the American Rescue Plan. There is also a $2.49 million projected revenue deficit for FY21. 

The City’s General Fund currently has a projected deficit of $550k in FY22 and $2.1 million in FY23. Both of those projections include a lot of uncertainties, including property tax values and commissioner increments. 

The millage rate was increased to 5.2974 mills for FY20 and held steady (at the same rate, which brings in more revenue than the previous year if property values increase) for FY21. The proposed rates for FY22 and FY23 are also flat at 5.2974 mills.

A 9% increase in the fire assessment fee is proposed for FY22 ($133/unit to $145/unit). 

The budget shows an overall decrease in personnel services for FY22, which is mainly due to the timing of the contributions for the pensions. Some positions were added, which will increase the baseline personnel budget for future years. Total expenditures in the FY22 budget are 1.6% higher than the FY21 budget. 

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The new Combined Communications Center contract contributed to a 6.8% increase in that department, and new positions contributed to a 15.3% increase in the Communications & Engagement department. Housing and Community Development’s budget increased by 51.7%, driven by new positions and additional operating expenses. 

Karen Fiore, who presented the budget, used the word “conservative” 11 times to describe the assumptions used in creating the proposed budget. 

To take some of the pressure off the budget, Commissioner Reina Saco offered to withdraw the increments that she had previously proposed: “I think we all, all seven of us, need to evaluate the progress we’ve made for the coming year. If it isn’t an immediate need, something we agreed on two weeks ago in strategic planning, we need to scale back.”

Mayor Lauren Poe proposed having a special meeting to “simply look at new increments and propose decrements.”

There was no substantive discussion on any line item in the budget, other than the fire assessment fee; Poe talked about putting a process in place in the future to keep that fee in line with increased expenses.

No motion was made, but during public comment on the agenda item, Nathan Skop said, “What I’ve heard today was a hastily presented presentation, a 9% increase in the fire assessment fee… What I haven’t heard is discussion of making substantial reduction in [the General Fund] Transfer, cutting spending, addressing those issues.” He said the commission wasn’t discussing “the elephant in the room,” the two-notch credit rating downgrade. “You’re not taking things seriously. It’s business as usual. The debt downgrade was a wake-up call; you haven’t learned anything from it, you’re ignoring it, and it’s back to business as usual.”

Poe responded, “I know anybody is allowed to say whatever they want during public comment. It’s people’s right to free speech. To insinuate that any of the seven of us don’t take this incredibly seriously is just factually not true… This is the most important thing that we do every year. A lot of time and effort goes into it.”

The entire meeting lasted about 52 minutes; Commissioner Gail Johnson was about 10 minutes late, and Commission Desmon Duncan-Walker attended virtually. The commission will discuss the GRU budget Wednesday at 5 p.m.

  • The only thing Poe spews is excrement.

    Time for the highly educated Gainesville community to really “wake” the hell up.

  • Millage rate going up, property values going up? Yeah, let’s go squeeze the property tax payer!!!
    they need to decrement, not increment…yeah,
    Poe & the rest spew excrement. —What about
    Covid? They know things have been bad since
    The pandemic…how come they don’t cut back
    On their salaries and make each dept cut back
    And cut unnecessary positions like that equity one?
    What about me, the taxpayer? I take my finances
    Very seriously and have to cut stuff…They should
    Be focusing on essential services only and fixing
    The potholes,..

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