DUNEDIN — Debt reduction, employee bonuses and potential service fee changes are among ideas commissioners discussed Tuesday at the request of city staffers who are building next year's budget.
There were no final decisions made during the morning budget workshop, but staffers said they will consider commissioners' ideas along with the results of an audit expected to be completed within the next two weeks.
The city also plans to use forecasting software recently purchased for $10,000 to provide a 10-year snapshot of the potential long-term effects of budget decisions on city revenues and expenditures.
"We're going to do our best to maximize efficiencies and minimize impacts to services," said Jeffrey Yates, director of finance. "Everything is on the table when it comes to a balanced budget. A balanced budget is the highest priority."
Dunedin has an $85 million budget this year.
Staffers asked commissioners for direction on five areas: efficiencies; service reductions; potential service fee increases; the property tax rate; and how they'd like to use an estimated $6.7 million tucked in reserves.
Commissioners said it was difficult to establish priorities while they await projections on city end-of-year funding levels and anticipated funding from Tallahassee.
However, they generally agreed that cuts to unused services or service fee increases — or in some cases, decreases — might be needed.
"That takes some pressure off the taxpayers by making people who use the services pay for the services," said Vice Mayor David Carson.
Mayor Dave Eggers and Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski said they were opposed to property tax increases. But they promoted the idea of giving employees bonuses next year.
"It's been two years with nothing, and we're going to continue to be asking more for less and there's a morale issue to consider," Bujalski said. "One-time bonuses are one good way not to increase future costs, but it's still giving (employees) something."
Commissioners also asked city staffers to research:
• Using general fund reserves to reduce debt as well as to build or improve obsolete or deteriorating facilities
• Examine options for using or selling unused city property
• Examine the impact of potential personnel reductions on services
• Continue efforts to reduce costs by being environmentally "green."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4153.