City of Vero Beach takes up three days of tough budget decisions

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Coucil begins three days of workshops this morning on the proposed 2009-2010 budget, which includes furloughs and cuts to services to offset reduced revenues without increasing the City’s 1.94 millage tax rate.The budget for the City of Vero Beach totals about $172 million, with $23 million of that coming from the general fund. About $5 million of the general fund is derived from property taxes, with $5.9 million coming from the electric utility to subsidize City operations and $1.7 million in administrative fees charged to the electric utility to help defer salaries and costs of administration.  According to Finance Director Steve Maillet, the $200 million decrease in property values in the City of Vero Beach, combined with reductions in sales tax receipts, has required cuts in every department to balance the budget. “We will try to avoid impinging on services too much, but there’s only so much cutting you can do before you get into service cuts,” Maillet said. One proposal being seriously considered is requiring the city’s employees to coordinate schedules within departments so each employee can take one unpaid day off per month. This would shave approximately 5 percent off the overall payroll budget, but would require negotiations with relevant labor unions if the furlough was to apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. All non-essential overtime has already been eliminated and two city positions — one in the City Clerk’s office and one in the planning department — have already been eliminated due to attrition. The city continues to be under a hiring freeze for any new positions.Two unpopular proposals which have provoked complaints and even a public protest are the cutting off of the water to the Royal Palm Pointe fountain and the closing of Leisure Square Pool for nine months. The two reductions in recreation would save a total of approximately $100,000.Workshops will begin at 9 a.m. in the City Council chambers. Final budget hearings are scheduled for September.

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