Sarasota News Leader

09/28/12

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Sarasota News Leader September 28, 2012 of money, and a loss of moving forward. That's got to be the biggest disaster I've seen here." Coleman also was linked to the email prob- lem. Lyons said he has worked smoothly with the City Auditor and Clerk's Office, both during the tenure of former CAC Billy Robinson and his handpicked successor, Pam Nadalini. "It's just the way the system is set up," said Lyons. HANDING OVER THE MESS Lyons hopes to leave office in 60 days, but he admits that finding a qualified successor may not be easy. Cities across the nation are feeling the same pressures of lag- ging economic develop- ment, declining budgets and soaring pension costs. Page 38 realist. "Our job is to keep the financial po- sition of the city as best as possible and try to advise the [City] Commission on the best course of action," he said. "Don't count on things that aren't there. And remember: You don't make policy. The City Commission does that." His successor will inherit a budget that starts the fiscal year with a $2.4 million difference between income and expenses. "You have to cut expenses. It's the biggest job," Lyons said. "But the person facing this problem will not solve it. They are going to have to raise taxes." "It may be hard to fill this job. When I tried to fill the deputy [finance di- rector's] position, I had to go through three iterations of search," said Lyons. "I see people who used to want to be finance directors, but now they have a stable job. I've made calls to people who voiced some interest in working here. They're not so interested now." With computer and calculator at hand, Chris Lyons scrutinizes city expenses and projects revenues and tries every year to find a balance between them. Photo by Stan Zimmerman "I think some people are downplaying these challenges. It is go- ing to take all of them working together to solve these issues," said Lyons. His job has not been all thorns. Lyons recalls two financial roses. "On a positive note, re- sponsibility for the [Ed Smith] Stadium was moved to the county. And another is the Van Wezel turnaround," said, referring to the city's performing arts hall. "The city has not had good press over the last year," he said. "Sometimes it was downright scary. Punishing people for working from home; people ask what's going on. I hear it from colleagues." Lyons recommends that whoever his succes- sor is, the person needs to be a conservative Between the county's picking up the $600,000 yearly operating tab for the stadium and the city's eliminating the $1 million-plus annual subsidy to keep the Van Wezel in the black, the city has plugged two recurring financial drains. "From my financial background, those were two huge successes," he said.

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