Sebastian adopts budget with tough cuts, furloughs

SEBASTIAN — With election season heating up the Sebastian City Council lowered property taxes, insitituted furloughs on employees and dipped into $85,000 from reserves to balance the 2009-2010 budget.

“The important thing to underscore is how much this is going to cost everybody,” said Sebastian City Manager Al Minner. The Council adopted a millage rate of 3.3456 mills for the  fiscal year beginning October 1. According to Minner, a home valued last year at $166,000 paid $1,982 in taxes. With a 10 percent decrease in assessed value, the tax this year will be $1,789. Total projected expenses for the coming year are $10,893,852.

A negative balance of $84,021 will be taken from reserve funds, but councilmember Jim Hill praised the City staff for reducing an original projected budget deficit of $400,000 to $84,000.

Minner and the council took barbs from all sides, some saying they didn’t cut enough and some worried the cuts would impact services.

“There’s a lot of fat still in the budget. We can still cut. Will you do it?” challenged Sebastian resident Damien Gilliams during public commentary. “You’re overtaxing the residents of this community. You can give taxpayers in the community relief. There are buyouts to City employees to retire. You have money, Mr. Mayor. Spread the wealth. We’re hurting out here.”

Al Paternoster, who is running for a Sebastian Council seat, inquired about furloughs. “Hourly employees will be receiving reductions in pay for at least eight hours. Will salaried personnel have the same reduction?”

Minner responded that the furloughs will impact all City employees from his position as City Manager on down.

Paternoster then expressed concern about the effect on public safety of furloughs within the Sebastian Police Department such as “a reduction in response time due to a furlough day” which might open the City up for liability. “We can’t afford to do that.”

Councilmember Hill indicated it is the responsibility of the Police Chief to maintain a safe level of service. “I would like to hear from the Chief of Police and ask the Chief to come back and talk about how she is going to maintain the level of service with the furloughs.”

The first of 12 furlough days will start in October.

The final resolution adopted by the Council in the special meeting authorized amending a lease by the Sebastian Golf Course of land belonging to the Sebastian Airport with a reduction of the annual rent amount because of the substantial decline in property values. From Oct. 1, 2009 through September 30, 2015 rent is adjusted to $135,000. The initial rent in 2000 was $120,000, but it increased to $175,000 in 2005. An additional increase to $250,000 was to take place in 2010.



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