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Litchet wants to hire another "multi-license building inspector," with the cost covered by permit fees. The mowing and landscaping offices are look- ing for additional resources, too. Staffers are weighing the cost of contracting the work to outsiders or re-establishing a mowing capa- bility in-house. The county outsourced most of its mowing and has suffered significant problems over the past couple of years. While not an issue for the upcoming fiscal year's budget, the following year will see a $320,000 "hole" because Sarasota County's agreement to help fund the R.L. Taylor Community Complex will expire. The county begrudged the funding, saying it suspected the facility was primarily for city residents. Doug Jeffcoat, director of public works, said this year there are 3,258 "pass holders" for the complex, with 35 percent from the city and 56 percent from the county. The city may argue next year to keep the county budget allot- ment because more than half of the users are county residents. Excluding the new requests, the proposed expenses for the general fund budget are $59.1 million, but the projected revenues are $56.8 million. That is a gap of $2.3 million. Add the $1.3 million requested for new positions, and the budget is $3.6 million light. COVERING THE GAP Unlike previous years, the city's reserves are shot. The last remaining reserves are being used to plug the hole in the current budget. Because the handwriting figuratively started to appear on the wall last spring, staff has been looking for other ways to make the FY 2014-2015 budget balance. One method used in the past will be uti- lized again — a transfer of $250,000 from the solid waste enterprise fund into the general fund. And another $500,000 could material- ize through holding off on hiring new people "and other personnel adjustments." But all that does not cover one-quarter of the need. The city commissioners were given two real- istic options. With reserves exhausted, they could raise the property millage rate or they could undo a reform they put into effect in 2006 in regard to funding the OPEB, "other post-employment benefits." "We need $3.6 million to balance the budget," Finance Director Lege said as the two-day workshop came to a close. Vice Mayor Susan Chapman responded, "I move to reduce OPEB by $3.9 million and work with an insurance consultant and actu- ary to make OPEB financially sustainable for the retirees." The motion to use the retiree account to balance the FY 14-15 budget passed unanimously. After the budget was balanced, Commissioner Suzanne Atwell moved to accept the staff-rec- ommended millage rate of 3.1728, unchanged from the current year. That motion passed unanimously as well. The commissioners will return on Aug. 18 to balance their current budget and then they will hold two public hearings on next year's budget in September. The entire proposed budget is viewable on the city's website. % Sarasota News Leader August 1, 2014 Page 39

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