VERO BEACH — Councilman Brian Heady wants to take the City’s Finance Committee “out of mothballs” so they can help plan for potentially challenging budget years to come.
Heady praised the committee for their knowledge and experience in financial matters, but that the city has not taken full advantage of the expertise it has available to it in recent years. He equated it to having a luxury car stored in the garage.
“We’re facing pretty tough times coming up,” Heady said, referring to budget cuts and employee furloughs, pension liabilities, increasing healthcare costs, depressed property values, reduced state cost-sharing funds and growing public dismay about the city’s practice of transferring millions into the general fund from the electric, water and sewer utilities. Members of the committee, who are appointed by the City Council to provide advice and make recommendations about the budget and other financial measures, have only met infrequently and are normally called in to give their blessing to recommendations by staff and consultants. Heady wants the committee to generate money-saving ideas and to take a hard look at the financial state of the city.
Committee member Pilar Turner requested that Finance Director Steve Maillet provide the committee with monthly profit and loss statements so they can see how the various departments and enterprise funds. A special request was required for this, as it was noted that this kind of reporting has not been required of the city’s Finance Director since Commissioner Bob Solari was a City Council member in 2006.
“If people don’t want those reports and nobody is interested, it does create a lot of paperwork for everyone,” Maillet said.
Former Mayor Warren Winchester, a long-standing member of the Finance Committee, expressed doubt about getting the monthly statements.
“Just getting a report, what can we do with the report?” Winchester said.
Heady countered this by urging the members that a few more sets of eyes on the financial information in a timely manner could only help the city make prudent decisions.
“I would submit that you can’t advise the council on something that you don’t know anything about,” Heady said. “I would like to empower or change this committee with brainstorming or coming up with ideas. Please come back and tell us what we need to do.”
Winchester said he wanted to make it clear that the committee did not intend to take on any political issues and Chairman Tom Nason assured all watching that the committee would not interfere with the management of the city.
The idea of monthly meetings to review financial statements did not gain a consensus with the members, but the committee agreed to meet as needed. Maillet said the group would be called together for annual meetings to review the employee Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance benefits, the actuarial and assumption reports regarding the pensions and the mid-year review of the city’s budget in March.