DEC. 17, 2018 BROOKSVILLE CITY COUNCIL-
Betty Erhard gets update on items of concern
Betty Erhard thanked those who attended the meeting. She congratulated the winners of the holiday lights beautification awards. Erhard thanked the Parks and Recreation Department for the work on the parade float.
Erhard showed the pink fire helmet she received from Fire Chief Snowberger and the Fire Department.
Erhard then addressed Kutney. She thanked him for keeping everyone updated via emails but wanted to know the status of several items that she had wanted accomplished during her one-year term as mayor: the website, mission statement, bid for institutional supplies, and PDCS negotiation.
Kutney responded to Erhard:
• Institutional supplies – Three companies responded to the Request for Proposal (RFP) and VRM was the company selected for a one-time trial.
• Website – The plan is to have that ready by the beginning of March 2019. The website designer is taking recommendations to optimize the site and cater it to the city’s needs.
• Mission Statement – Kutney acknowledged this was a task he was given when he was hired, but it is almost completed and will be brought to the council for approval. It’s not as simple as it sounds. They have needed to encompass all of what the City of Brooksville stands for (mission statement, core values, vision statement) and to set the framework for the strategic plan for the road that will take them into the future. Kutney said experts agree that a “grass roots buy in” is important, so input from all levels has been taken, and they are now in the refinement stage. Once the mission statement is ready it will be brought to council, separate from the other portions. Rebranding is also a possibility.
• PDCS – A meeting was tentatively planned for late November/early December, but the City Attorney would like to discuss stormwater utilities and fees. Kutney had additional items including security to discuss with each council member and estimates about one hour each for the individual meetings.
The residential and commercial sanitation schedules for 2019 will be posted on the city’s website. Erhard suggested that other council members make a point to visit the city’s website, as she does. She was concerned that the employee responsible for the website has received a 5% raise and now has an additional stipend, but the website is not updated.
At the last council meeting, Bernardini brought up traffic concerns near Bell Avenue and Mt. Fair, and even discussed them with the Sheriff’s Office. He acknowledged that the mornings are busy before school begins. He said some citizens asked about traffic calming devices and offered to pay for them, but they feel that there is no progress in installing them. Radacky’s presentation to the council was in response to Bernardini reaching out to Kutney.
Sgt. Chris Calderon of the Sheriff’s Office reported 14 traffic violations were issued in that area following the last council meeting. There were 146 traffic stops overall, but because the locations varied, they were not disclosed. Kutney stated that Lt. McMurdo provided additional information that would be given to the council members.
Bernardini thanked staff for the work on the Christmas parade float. He thanked the public for attending the meeting and wished them a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year. Bernardini expressed appreciation for the Brooksville Healthcare Center’s festive display. He complimented Cloverleaf and those who decorated downtown. The Christmas Tree Lighting drew a crowd of between 3,000 to 5,000 people.
William Kemerer asks for updates
Kemerer felt that there were many things the council accomplished in 2018 but wanted information on a few items they hadn’t been able to complete. Kutney provided an update to the council:
• Consultants Competitive Negotiation Act (CCNA) process – The draft is complete and under review by the City Attorney. (Kutney thanked the City Clerk for her help.) Kutney expects to have it ready by the end of December so that it can be sent out, allowing for up to 12 weeks for advertising and for proposals.
• Duke Energy – Once Duke decides where they want the lines, the City Attorney can write the easement agreement. Rather than have a blanket agreement, Stuparich agreed that being as specific as possible was the better option.
• Citizen’s Academy – Kutney said this is on the list of agenda items that could be discussed at a future workshop, but the council will need to determine how important this item is. “We have no shortage of projects,” he said.
Fire Assessment Study
Kemerer discussed the Fire Assessment study, saying he felt it would benefit the city if their assessment was similar to the county’s, since it seems to be successful for the county. There is some flexibility in the process, and it might be better than trying something new.
Battista asked if it would be based on a commercial building’s square footage, or by residential property. Kemerer agreed that it could be even simpler. It would generate revenue but not for the general fund. It’s a “demand based” system, he said.
Battista remarked that the county’s percentage of commercial to residential housing is the opposite of the city’s. It could be one of several options that the city has. Kemerer obtained a consensus and directed Kutney to move forward.
City Manager’s evaluation
At the first meeting in January, Kemerer would like to discuss sponsorship credit and the city manager’s evaluation process. Rather than take up a large portion of the regular city council meeting, Kemerer asked for a workshop where they could discuss the items in detail, including how the city manager’s evaluation will be conducted.
Battista referred to a policy stating that the mayor determines the evaluation criteria. Since the city has a new mayor each year, the evaluation process changes most of the time. He recommended reviewing the policy to see if the council would like to amend it or develop a new one. The specific items the city manager will be asked to accomplish each year will change, but Kemerer would like to make the evaluation process more uniform.
Kemerer suggested that Kutney prepare to discuss his accomplishments over the past year as well as his goals for the next year. Battista recognized that when Kutney was hired, he was given a list of projects and priorities, some of which have been realized. For the 01/07/19 workshop, Battista asked Kutney to include information on the status of the collective bargaining agreement.
During the 01/28/19 workshop, Kemerer would like to cover the asset management program, traffic calming measures, and fire pension. He recommended a review of the meeting video for the questions the council wanted to add. Giving the information to Kutney in advance would allow him to prepare for the meeting.
Kemerer identified a possible oversight in the budget – the city manager’s raise. Department heads and other employees received raises or merit pay increases, he said, but nothing is mentioned about the city manager.
During her time as mayor, Erhard said she asked for clarification from the city attorney on the city manager’s evaluation but received no response. She forwarded the email back to the attorney. The response on 12/11/18 indicated that the evaluation had been completed, but Erhard did not address Kutney’s evaluation as mayor.
City revenues, budget and city manager initiative
Brayton requested an item added to the 01/28/19 workshop – revenue sources. With the planned projects and budget allocations for the next fiscal year, Brayton said a frank discussion is in order. Kemerer said this was planned as part of the discussion on asset management. February workshops will include budget fund balances and the police pension fund, since the results of the bids on annuities should be received in January.
Brayton said that looking at the city’s revenue from 15 years ago, even with the cost cutting, the city is bringing in less than before.
Erhard agreed with Brayton, saying that the minutes reflect that she repeatedly mentioned the decreased revenue. She encouraged the council members to review the weekly reports, which is where she learned of the stipends and raises that are being disbursed. “We’re on a spending spree,” she said.
Bernardini asked if giving those raises were within the city manager’s scope, or if they had to be approved by council. Kutney responded that he was following the plan that was in place before he arrived.
Captain Richard Hankins of the Brooksville Police Department monitored the email system. He received an 8% salary bonus for this additional job, until the police department was closed. Then, that job was given to a single city employee, who acts as the IT person for the email server, monitoring all city employee emails. That 8% differential was transferred to the city employee under Kutney’s authorization. He stated that the council was welcome to approve or change that.
Bernardini said if the person was doing extra work and deserved the pay, then that was fine. It would have been better to have the city council aware and approve the change. The concern was a repeat of the situation under (a) previous city manager, with “city manager initiative” listed as the reason for expenses and budget changes, when no one was sure what it was or who was receiving it.
Kutney stated that within a department’s budget there is some leeway, as there are times employees are on leave or otherwise not receiving pay. And 8% is not a great deal of money, as it was already being paid under the police department’s budget, he said.
It was the process Bernardini wanted to clarify, not the stipend itself. Even if money is moved within the city manager’s department budget, the council needs to be aware where it goes, and why. Erhard agreed that was her concern as well.
Battista reminded the council members that the amount of money available does not allow for many capital improvement projects. During the upcoming workshop, he recommended that council members discuss possible sources of revenue (instead of assessments) for the projects they wish to complete, such as roads.
Raising utility rates to cover those projects could increase revenue, Battista said, but a 22% increase will cause a strain on residents’ budgets, even spread out over 18 months. The city may be able to bond out for the utility projects but getting money from the state for any other projects is unlikely. “An 8% stipend for the deputy clerk is not going to matter one hill of beans.”
“It all adds up,” Erhard said.
Battista disagreed, saying the amount of money needed far exceeds that stipend and that is where the focus should be, “and not stepping on all these little ants while buffalo is running past us and stampeding. We need to handle that buffalo.”
The roads are in serious need of repair, Erhard advised, with a resident having to replace two tires due to potholes on the road. DPW will be repairing them, but patching is not a long-term solution.
Brayton said his concern was for revenue sources. Once those are determined, then projects can be prioritized and begun.
The problems have been growing over the years, Kemerer said, and the costs to fix them were underestimated. Resolving the problems may take years. The county’s economy coincides with construction, which he said runs 7-10 years. The county is in the third year of the cycle, Kemerer said. “Whatever we do, we have to be sure it (the revenue stream) is flexible and we can adjust it to the economy and the needs.”
Battista reminded the council that Ken Small with the Florida League of Cities brought ideas for revenue. “It all comes down to the same thing. The taxpayers pay more,” Kemerer said.
The council agreed that residents cannot pay anything more, or the city risks losing residents. Either they will leave, or people will stop coming to Brooksville. Once the police pension has been decided, the city will have some available funds, Kemerer said.
Regarding the budget, Kemerer said in other years, all the funds were used in budgeting, and there was nothing left. Everything was over budget. The budget is figured with actual costs now, and what is not needed is considered reserved.
Kutney’s budget is very controlled, in contrast with the previous city manager, who was essentially given carte blanche. Because of that experience, the charter review committee discussed restricting the city manager’s scope but decided against it. Brayton recommended that the city manager notify council members of any changes such as were mentioned earlier, and the council could make that part of the policy.
“We could do a lot of things,” Kemerer said, but the charter clearly states that the council should not be involved with the operational side, especially with personnel. That is the city manager’s purview. The city council is a policy board, and that is a line they should not cross. But, Kemerer said, clarifying that could be on the agenda for another workshop.
Battista said that Kutney understands the line and appreciates how Kutney will respond to a question from Battista by saying that it can be brought to the council, or that the council would need to decide a direction for staff. There are county administrators and city managers who find it difficult to maintain that boundary, which is why they don’t last.
Kemerer and Battista agreed that they like Kutney and want him to remain with the city. Erhard said she does not have that same level of communication. The council also has a financial responsibility and can hire or fire the city manager.
Erhard’s concern was not the amount of the stipend, but that she was unaware of it. The website was not maintained even after multiple requests, and she learned that the deputy clerk had the other responsibilities. It made her ask how many other employees are doing multiple jobs, and what is falling through the cracks. “Since when does a deputy clerk do an IT job?”
Kemerer thanked the public for attending and congratulated the holiday light winners. He wished everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and said he was looking forward to accomplishing a lot in 2019.
Dec. 17, 2018 City Council meeting coverage here: