by KATHRYN DENTATO
The Brooksville City Council discussed the General Fund and department budget needs for the 2021 Fiscal Year (FY) at the 07/13/2020 special meeting.
Fire Chief Ron Snowberger’s budget presentation reflected Brooksville Fire Department’s (BFD) three objectives in providing services to city residents and business owners. There should be realistic, responsible and reliable professional responses to emergencies, Snowberger said.
Snowberger’s proposed budget is $62,880.09 less than last year’s budget. BFD funding is evenly divided between the fire assessment and the City’s General Fund.
The largest budget expense is personnel cost (66%), an increase of 3% over last year and a result of union negotiations. The 21 budgeted positions include the addition of a Fire Inspector.
Capital Outlay (18%) is money that is reinvested into the BFD in obtaining or upgrading equipment. Operating costs and transfers to other departments are each only 7% of the budget, and debt service is the final 2%.
Compared to the budget from FY 2018 (77% personnel cost, 8% operating cost, 1% capital outlay, 11% transfers), this year’s proposed budget is much more balanced. The increase in capital outlay has allowed the department to improve the existing building.
BFD provides services beyond putting out fires or responding with emergency medical services. Snowberger said they are also involved with fire inspections of both existing and new construction, including reviewing plans. They are present during special events, perform various rescues, and are now involved with ASHER (Active Shooter Hostile Emergency Response).
The Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is based on what BFD needs and will use, Snowberger said. After two years of submitting requests to Tallahassee, BFD cannot wait any longer for a mini pumper. It will be a backup for the 2016 main engine. The 2000 pumper that BFD owns has been repaired but is becoming too costly to maintain due to its age.
A second item in the CIP is a breathing air compressor. This is used to fill the oxygen bottles when firefighters are on scene so they can breathe without inhaling smoke.
The third request is related to the ASHER program. Safety is paramount during rescues in active shooter situations. Snowberger said BFD needs to purchase four helmets and ballistic protection vests with first aid kits. Three portable P-25 radios are needed by BFD for use during joint operations.
City Manager Mark Kutney has served as interim Community Development Director since Bill Geiger’s retirement at the end of January. Kutney said he will submit names of potential replacements at the 07/20/2020 meeting.
The proposed budget reflects a $17,000 increase over last year as Kutney anticipates an increase in permits in the coming year. That increase would be paid to the private company that provides the permitting service for the city.
Council member Bill Kemerer asked about an additional code enforcement officer, whether full-time or part-time, as had been discussed during previous meetings. He said it would be a much larger increase for the department. Kutney stated that would be discussed at the 07/20/2020 meeting.
Finance Director Autumn Sullivan explained that staff changes have resulted in a decrease of approximately $20,000. New directors are coded as general employees rather than senior management, reducing the retirement contribution the city pays.
Kutney stated the position is currently open. Since the Human Resources Director was the only person in that department, the title will change to Human Resources Administrator and the position will be under the City Manager’s department. Kutney will advertise for a replacement in the near future.
Parks and Recreation
The department’s budget goals, said Director Angie Whisnant, are to maintain the current level of service and to introduce new programs. Having a small department would make those goals a challenge, but the COVID situation has multiplied the challenge because of cancellations and postponements with internal programs and with community partners.
From 2015 to the present expenditures have remained steady, Whisnant said. The exception is in the CIP outlay, which has been relatively small by comparison until now. Deferring maintenance results in a larger CIP in future budgets.
Whisnant’s 2021FY budget will be $95,000 more than the 2020FY budget, with an operation budget increase of only $8,370. The largest expense will be $75,000 to replace the roof at Jerome Brown Community Center.
Line items that exceeded the previous budget included copier contract (because they print documents for partners using the parks, such as Kiwanis), small tools (to replace personal tools employees were using), and cleaning supplies (due to COVID).
To obtain a $400,000 Land and Water Conservation Grant, Whisnant said she first had to get a clear title to The Quarry property. Now an environmental study is required. The only bid she received so far was $39,000, far more than anticipated. The grant is a 50/50 grant, meaning the city will receive $200,000 as reimbursement. Whisnant is looking at other grant opportunities also.
The Parks Department will also print an annual activity guide, available in October. It will be available online, but print copies are also needed.
City Manager Mark Kutney discussed the remaining departments.
Cemetery – This moved from the Parks and Recreation Department last year and is managed by City Clerk Jennifer Battista. In addition to reviewing cemetery policies, there are site improvements needed. Kutney said the $30,000 budget increase reflects two CIP projects: engineering and surveying for expansion and making the parking areas ADA compliant.
General Government – Kutney described this as a potpourri of various expenditures. The 2021FY budget reflects a $20,000 increase due to routine business insurance increases.
City Council – Vice Mayor Pat Brayton questioned the amount being paid as retirement contributions. Council Member Bill Kemerer responded that it was determined by statute. The City Council budget included the contract with Hernando County to provide government broadcasting.
Council member Betty Erhard questioned the travel and per diem expense. Kutney responded that due to COVID, many departments show lower expenditures in travel as organizations have suspended training and travel, opting for virtual meetings instead.
City Manager – Kutney said that reorganizing and streamlining his office resulted in combining responsibilities and moving personnel.
Mayor Joe Bernardini addressed salary, saying that there appeared to be inequities across the board. He suggested an in-house salary survey. Council member Robert Battista said employees with certifications should see that reflected in their salaries, which will keep attrition low.
Kutney said that if Council authorized it, he would welcome the opportunity to complete the in-house survey and would also compare similar salaries in other cities. Battista made a motion to authorize an internal salary survey. It was seconded by Kemerer. The motion was approved 5-0.
Technology – Kutney said the 2021 FY budget reflects nearly $40,000 less than the previous year. Computers were upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and other software and hardware purchases were made. Kutney said that through CARES Act and FDLE grants, the city will seek additional hardware.
IT Coordinator Timothy Grantham compared savings of the cloud-based Office 365 subscription service with the current Microsoft Office suite which has licensing costs for each individual computer on which it is installed.
There are two versions of Microsoft Office, Standard and Pro. Microsoft Office Pro has two additional programs. Office 365 automatically updates, while Microsoft Office must be reinstalled with updates when new versions are released, requiring new license fees.
Webmail is cloud based and data may not be housed in the United States. Its commercial license does not meet the standard for government cloud operations, Grantham said. Data network storage is kept at the Hernando County Clerk’s IT office, but the drive storage must be increased periodically because of the amount of data.
Switching to Office 365 to a government plan would ensure that cloud storage is in the United States and improve security. Each user could access files on up to five devices, on any browser platform. This provides an added benefit when employees must work remotely in the event of emergencies (storm, health, etc.).
The only licensing vendor in Florida is SHI. The vendor would migrate webmail from the commercial to the government plan for a fee. Alternatively, IT personnel could do the same migration for no additional fee. Grantham said data network storage could be transitioned from Amazon web services to a government plan as well but recommended keeping the current archiving service with Barracuda.
Grantham suggested combining the available G1 and G3 options. The G1 plan is entirely cloud based, including the applications for Word, PowerPoint, Excel and email. The G3 plan allows those applications to be added to the desktop as well. G1 would cover up to 30 employees, such as those providing customer service. G3 would be used for up to 60 management level employees and other staff.
The cost would be $18,761 annually, which is $11,260 more than the annual webmail cost. But it is also approximately what the City just spent to install the 2019 Microsoft Windows suite on 35 computers. That program would need to be updated in 2023 at a cost of approximately $24,800. Migrating storage would also mean that the County would not have to house the data, reducing that cost.