In a special meeting held on August 27, 2018, the Brooksville City Council met to discuss items stemming from the previous budget meeting on August 13, 2018. Included in this meeting were results of a water and sewer rate study performed by the Florida Rural Water Association, the usage of enterprise fund reserves, and employee salary increases. Water and sewer rate increases were passed as well as 5% salary increases for non-management city staff.
Water and Sewer Rates
The council voted 5-0 to revise the current resolution to set a phase-in period for residential and commercial customers. Residential customers will see new rates beginning October 1, 2018, and commercial customers will be phased in to the new rate structure beginning April 1, 2019 and October 1, 2019.
Proposed water and sewer rates within the city. Residential customers will notice an approximate $8.00 increase in water and sewer per month beginning in October 2018 (up $4 for water and $4 for sewer). Commercial customers will be phased in to a new rate structure depending on the size of their water meter. The estimated amounts are from proposed Resolution 2018-11.
Residential Water Usage Increase
Commercial customers will be phased in to the new rate structure in two parts after all city residents. According to Tom Sterling with the Florida Rural Water Association, most meter sizes are smaller than two inches. A real estate office may see a drop in cost when using the base amount of services, where a dentist office may see an increase due to water usage.
Reserves of Enterprise Funds
City Manager Mark Kutney introduced the discussion on the ‘400 series’ of funds, primarily the reserve of the sanitation fund, which currently contains a surplus.
Vice Mayor Robert Battista quickly reviewed the finding at the August 13, 2018 meeting, when the council found that the sanitation fund’s reserve contained a considerable amount, possibly up to one year’s worth of revenue. “Whatever it’s for, this is a pretty healthy amount of money,” said Battista. He mentioned the question about the police pension fund, and where that $810,000 liability may actually lie. Battista suggested that the surplus could provide ‘a bank’ from where the general fund could borrow, then return at an established interest rate over a period of years.
With regard to budget increases for the water and sewer funds, Council Member William Kemerer said he could not make sense of any increases to those funds when such a reserve is in place, and also expecting increases in revenues when water rates are increased.
Kemerer instead moved to establish a 10% restricted reserve within the water fund for equipment replacement, and a 12% reserve in the wastewater fund to cover charges for services. The council passed the motion unanimously.
Employee and Management Raises
The Brooksville City Council voted 3-2 on August 28, 2018 to approve a 5% raise for all non-management city employees, and up to 5% for management-level employees and above, depending on merit evaluations.
Mayor Betty Erhard and Council Member Joe Bernardini were opposed to the increase, citing bad timing and bad optics to give such raises after disbanding the Brooksville Police Department. Both stated they would be more comfortable with 3% increases, with Erhard adding that merit-based increases should apply to general employees as well.
Erhard began the discussion by saying “Across-the-board raises do not raise morale,” and added later that it is not fair to higher-performing employees to receive the same raise as someone who is underperforming.
The remaining council members voted for the increases since city employees have not seen a significant increase in several years, and some are known to be underpaid. Council Member Brent Young recalled the decision to forego a salary study because the council already knows the determination would illustrate that.
Council Member William Kemerer stated that a 2% raise was given in 2008. In the last ten years, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased 15.65%. Kemerer added that the CPI was changed eight years ago, so 15.65% may be an underestimation. He reported that the city has given 8% in raises during that time. “We have to do something,” he said.