Few cuts promised in Gainesville Charter Officer and GPD budgets

From broadcast of the City Commission Workshop on May 17


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – In a Workshop held today, the Gainesville City Commission heard presentations from five of their six charter officers and from Gainesville Police Department on their proposed FY24 budgets. Although the City needs to cut about $19 million from its overall budget for next year, few cuts were proposed in today’s meeting, and the cuts were offset by large increases in some of the budgets.

City Attorney

The City Attorney’s Office proposed $48k in salary increases, a $9k increase in Operations & Maintenance, and a $22k cut in Administrative & General, for an overall increase of $35k, or 2% more than the FY23 budget.

A recurring theme in the discussions was that increases for employees who are members of bargaining units (such as Communications Workers of America or the public safety unions) are set during bargaining and are not directly under the control of Charter Officers.

City Auditor

The City Auditor’s Office proposed a $15k increase in salaries and benefits, a $2k decrease in Operations & Maintenance, and a $10k decrease in Administrative & General, for an overall increase of about $3k, or 0.35% more than the FY23 budget.

City Clerk

The City Clerk’s Office proposed a $59k increase in salaries and benefits, a $5k decrease in Operations & Maintenance, a $28k decrease in Administrative & General, and no change in Programs, for an overall increase of $26k, or 2.02% more than the FY23 budget.

City Commission

The City Commission Office proposed a $55k increase in salaries and benefits (mostly determined by the ordinance that specifies raises for commissioners based on the Consumer Price Index), an $11k increase (375%) in Administrative & General, and no change in Programs ($35,000 in travel expenses for commissioners), for an overall increase of $66k, or 13.52% more than the FY23 budget.

Steve Varvel, Acting Office of Budget & Management Director, explained that some of the increase in salaries and benefits came from the Florida Retirement System (FRS) contributions, which have “skyrocketed… for the elected official class.” The City pays the contributions for the mayor and all of the commissioners except Ed Book because he participates as a Santa Fe College employee. The City even has to make contributions for Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, who receives an FRS pension.

City Manager

The City Manager’s Office proposed a $374k reduction in salaries and benefits, accomplished by eliminating an Executive Assistant Senior position, transferring the Chief Climate Officer to Sustainable Development (so those funds will show up in that budget), a voluntary reduction of 5% in the City Manager’s salary, and eliminating four vacant positions in Neighbor Advocacy Services. The office also proposed a $50,000 increase in Operations & Maintenance for a temporary service employee to sit at the front desk of City Hall and no change in Administrative & General, for an overall decrease of $423,710, or 20.29% less than the FY23 budget.

Equity & Inclusion

The Office of Equity & Inclusion proposed an increase of $37k in salaries and benefits, but it was unclear whether that included the salary in Director Zeriah Fulston’s new contract, which has not been made public yet. The office also proposed a $79k increase in Operations & Maintenance, a $109k decrease in Administrative & General, and a $39k decrease in Programs, for an overall decrease of $33k, or 2% less than the FY23 budget.

During the discussion following the presentation on the Equity & Inclusion budget, Mayor Harvey Ward said it is unusual for a city this size to have six charter officers, and Commissioner Bryan Eastman said the commission might want to look at reducing that number with a ballot initiative in 2024.

Gainesville Police Department

GPD proposed a $4.5 million increase in salaries and benefits (most of which is contractual), an $805k increase in Operations & Maintenance, a $94k decrease in Nondiscretionary Operations & Maintenance, and a $373k increase in Administrative & General, for an overall increase of $5.4 million, or 15.29% more than the FY23 budget. The changes include eliminating three vacant positions: a Program Coordinator in the Police Chief’s office, a vacant Assistant Police Chief position (the other Assistant Police Chief position will be filled soon), and a vacant Police Crime Analyst position. Another change is that overtime will be budgeted up front instead of being added in a “true-up” at the end of the budget year.

In addition, the Juvenile Justice and Community Support Programs, with the exception of 3.5 positions in BOLD (Brave Overt Leaders of Distinction), will be eliminated, including the Reichert House Youth Academy. City Manager Cynthia Curry said the City is trying to find other jobs in the City or at GRU for the people whose jobs will be eliminated by this change. The elimination of these programs will cut almost $2.4 million from the City’s budget.

Reichert House

Curry said that eliminating Reichert House as a City program was driven by the State Auditor General’s findings: “We really just could not get past the issues or solutions that would have addressed those findings. We haven’t been able to get past that. And so the decision that I made and shared with the Commission was that the Reichert House program, in particular, would end at the school’s calendar year, which is May 31. The program would roll into GPD over the summer, and those employees would be maintained through the fiscal year, which is September 30… There will be programs specifically designed for the summer for those young men” with Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and other programs.

Curry concluded, “It has not been driven by a lack of money, it has just simply been driven by a lack of ability to, quite frankly, get past audit findings.”

Regarding the future of Reichert House, Curry said, “I would agree it is an important program. The services are critical. For the last month, we have been meeting with community partners–Darry Lloyd, specifically, from the State Attorney’s Office, but also representing Black on Black and some other community-based organizations. He has taken the lead, along with representatives from the School Board, the Children’s Trust–they have not made a hard commitment, because there’s an application process that has to be gone through in order to secure those funds. But they are all at the table. I spoke with Mr. Lloyd today, he feels very confident that they will have a program that will roll out for the fall school term, that will provide an after-school care program for young people that were served by Reichert House.”

Curry said she hoped the City would be able to provide “at least some resources, be they facilities, or vehicles or whatever it is that they request. But there clearly is a role for the City, going forward. I just can’t speak specifically to it right now.”

Willits asked whether the promise of saving over $2 million on Reichert House was “not completely accurate, that we may save it in this budget line, may show up in a different budget line.”

Curry responded that the program would not be part of “GPD’s core service, but the services provided are clearly needed in the community. And we would hope that the City would continue to play a role somewhere in the future of that partnership that is being discussed right now, to carry the program home.”

A summary of the General Government budget presentations so far is below:

More departments will present their budgets on May 25 at a City Commission Workshop that will be held instead of the scheduled General Policy Committee meeting at 1:00 p.m.

  • Wow. Great article. Finally some truth coming out even though mixed with slight of hand and fuzzy vision by Curry. Not very impressed by the “cuts”. I probably cut that much from my budget at Publix this year. Time to tighten up downtown.

  • They could hire volunteer retired executives from SCORE to fill in job vacancies (and maybe replace others). That’s a start.

  • They end Reichert House program which helps young men and 4 weeks ago they spend $240,000 to save a small tree infront of Harry’s restaurant. Mayor backWARD has his priorities right!!!!

  • Eliminate all that unneeded non-essential ESG,…equity diversity, inclusion, sustainability, & climate change departments, positions, & charter officers. Focus only on essential services only. I sure wish I could give myself a raise

    • the State of Florida & Desantis will do that next for us next after the new utility authority. These democrats in office don’t know how to run a business. they just know how to live off the government teet and stick it to the taxpayers. Desantis needs to replace all the GNV CC except Ed Book.

    • What a concept: focus on essential services! That’s much too lame for woke, gov dependent, folks that have never been a success anywhere in their life! Lots of those around, especially elected: Poe, Ward, Hayes, Arreola, a wannabe lawyer up there etc. if they are so smart, why have none of them ever had a big important job somewhere besides Gainesville City Hall? What a joke! Start cutting now!

      • I’m sure focusing on essential services never came up for discussion and it should have. Why do we need a climate czar again? They need to mind their own biz and stay within the GNV urban services boundary line… They stuck us with those lousy paper straws because a turtle had a plastic straw in its nose in the pacific somewhere. They want to implement great reset & Agenda 30 here…Hanrahan ruined GRU going biomass trying to comply with UN Kyoto protocol…
        Go woke, go broke. Desantis needs to prohibit municipalities from implementing ESG.

  • Dang pathetic! An asteroid could be heading to City Government (the State), and they would continue to feather their nests.

  • Now there is a brilliant idea. Get rid of the money pit that is Reichert House.
    Pass it on to a private operation where it belongs.
    Folks have no idea how many millions of dollars, wrecked city vehicles that place has accounted for.
    No one seems to know or can produce on paper where the money went.
    You figure it out.

    • Add to the list of Reichert vehicle usage such as installing tint and booming stereos, and using the vehicles for personal travel all over the state without permission and probably without a valid driver’s license. Who pays for the gas that goes into those vehicles? Yup, you do..

      • You forgot the wrecks and hit and run they had a few years back. City paid out a chunk!

    • To BB… unfortunately they aren’t cutting ties with RH. This is the same repeated slight of hand, don’t look now lies that are SOP (standard operating procedures) for the secret cult of local money and paid for politicians we call local governess. Add to that the ex-chief Jones position to get the 15 million the new RH is projecting it needs with a 5 million shortfall. This RH crap needs to be investigated for ethics and operational irregularities like the audit recommended. Jones can’t write grant request anyway. We have a city grants department too. Let’s see the citycomm address this issue or will they just leave everything to their eventual scapegoat Curry?

  • Why are paying “The Queen” Chestnut? She should be at least donating her salary to the Humane Society.

  • It’s clear that the city management doesn’t understand the meaning of a budget cutting. It’s very simple you submit a budget that is less than last year not one higher 😂😂😂

    • Little things have big messages: ” . . . and no change in Programs ($35,000 in travel expenses for commissioners)”

  • Woke is broke….thanks Hanrahan, Lowe, and Poe and co… Did the climate czar get her job for $89k/year??

    • Why do we need a climate czar again? That’s United Nations, world economic forum, great reset, vaccine passport type crap.

  • So F Harvey just proclaimed in the 5/17/23 meeting, that a City the size of Gainesville typically has 2 Charter Officers, but we have 6 so it takes 7 Commissioner’s to over see them. They were in such a hurry to fill the open positions last January they appointed useless interim Charter officers. The interim Charter Officers appointments should be rescinded . With only 2 Charter Officers we would only, at the most need 5 Commissioner’s. With further workload being reduced when they are officially removed running GRU they may be able to reduce workhours by 50% along with their salary. The less this group does ,the less carnage and costly mayhem they can inflict on the community.

    • That just tells you how inept and inefficient, not to mention ineffective local leadership is.
      If it takes 6 of them to do the job it takes two to do, maybe they should reevaluate not only their hiring process but their qualifying processes as well.

  • Cut the entire “Equity and Inclusion” nonsense!!

    These jokers won’t undo the economic catastrophe they created in a million years…SOS Florida Legislature!!!

  • Beware of the commissioners managing any budget. Be on the alert as they will likely try to use tax revenues to market & promote additional fees and taxes (i.e. 1% roads, school, parks, nature walks, etc.) and try to get it on the ballot.These loons are addicted to that $$$.

  • Playing the shell game…again.

    Robbing Peter to pay Paul…again.

    Redistribution of funds…again…

    Still wanting more…again.

    Doesn’t matter what they call it, it’s the same fiscal incompetence they’ve always shown. They care less about the residents they “claim” to represent and serve than they do about their pocketbooks.

    The only people who believe otherwise are the gullible liberal idiots who continue to vote for this group of idiots.

  • I usually don’t agree with many of you on the AC comment section but I do on this subject. What happened to the glorious “zero based budgeting” solution. Plus they are basing this on the “formula” to reduce the GF transfer. What happens when the new outside board comes in and they get zero transfer? So, instead of “bold” action they are going to boldy raise our property taxes, I guarantee it. And I agree, the amount of Charter officers is ludicrous.

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