By Agrippina Fadel
The Tamarac city commission discussed the budget for 2022 and the potential side effects the proposed lower millage rate and revenue losses would have.
At the Sept. 13 meeting, Christine Cajuste, Financial Services Director, explained that the city budget is still profoundly affected by the pandemic. This loss resulted in losses in the general fund and revenue sources other than property taxes.
According to her, the proposed budget will only maintain current service levels and fund necessary capital projects, meaning those eligible for surtax and projects already underway need additional funding.
Some events planned for 2022 will no longer take place to adjust the total budget for a proposed millage rate of 7.2000, according to Budget Manager Jeff Streder. He explained that when the department plans for the future, they estimate the revenue from parks and recreation, which took a hit from the pandemic.
With pandemic measures being lifted, parks and recs revenue for the next few years was expected to increase across the board and was included in the 2022 budget. However, the Delta variant may affect the collected revenues from park programs with more possible closures and postponements, according to Streder.
He said the city still has some backup measures in place with the revenue losses: vacant positions will remain unfilled, and existing positions will be evaluated for need and available funding. The soft ban on travel and training that the city imposed will remain in 2022. The new budget will provide funding for minimal new staff, including four critically needed full-time positions.
Commissioners Marlon Bolton and Mike Gelin asked if the salary of the former City Manager Mike Cernech could be repurposed in the city’s budget now that he is gone. Cajuste explained that Interim City Manager Kathleen Gunn had assumed the role’s duties, so those wages are paid to her.
Bolton and Gelin suggested looking into whether Gunn gets the same salary as the former city manager and whether the difference, if it exists, can be used for other means in the city’s budget.
Resident Nicol Bashut said the commission’s vote to fire Cernech instead of suspending him without pay could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for the city in litigation fees.
“You decided to write a blank check not only to our lawyers but to Mr. Cernech as well. Today, we don’t know how much your choice will cost us,” she added.
To make up revenue loss without affecting citizens, Commissioner Gelin proposed looking closer at the cost of benefits to the city’s employees, including pension contributions and health care benefits.
“I think it’s appalling that you would even consider taking money from the employees of the City of Tamarac, cutting their health insurance and their pension,” said Kings Point resident Dorothy Schiller.” You say there are a lot of ways to cut costs. Well, let’s see you do it – on your salary.”
The commission voted unanimously on the proposed total budget of $220,979,425.
The Final Public Budget Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 28.
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