Zephyrhills passes budget, water rate hikes

The budget for the city of Zephyrhills is now set.

On Sept. 25, the Zephyrhills City Council unanimously approved a $63.3 million for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, for Oct. 1.

A second reading of the millage and budget ordinances drew no public comment, during the regular meeting.

Budget by department:

The city of Zephyrhills budget for fiscal 2018 is $63.3 million. (File)

City Council: $3.53 million

Administration: $9.62 million

Utility Billing: $871,045

Finance: $378,000

Human Resources: $1.32 million

Planning: $421,084

Information Technology: $1.11 million

Equipment Maintenance: $257, 526

Police: $4.19 million

Dispatch: $589, 504

Fire: $2.91 million

Stormwater: $45,000

Building Services: $507, 446

Streets: $996, 097

Economic Development: $77,000

Library: $371, 701

Parks & Facilities: $850,506

The remaining monies necessary for the 2017-2018 budget comes from other funding sources, including state revenues, franchise fees, utility fees and grants.

That includes a loan of more than $7 million for the construction of the new City Hall, which has been carried over from last year. The loan amount will be paid on an annual basis from Penny for Pasco revenues.

The budget did not include capital funding for the anticipated Sarah Vande Berg Tennis Center. However, the architect fee of $50,000 is included in the 2018 budget, paid from park impact fees. The city staff has been working on the tennis center’s design, as well as building construction costs.

An early estimate of the building cost is $2.25 million, while court construction costs are anticipated to be $950,000, to be paid out of park impact fees by District of Abbot Station developer David Waronker. The city still needs to enter into a contract to take ownership of the site and payment of the park impact fees for court construction.

Some other highlights:

  • A 3 percent increase in salaries and benefits for all employees, at an additional cost of about $300,000
  • $245,000, up from $211,000, for worker’s compensation from the previous year
  • $275,000, up from $248,000, for retiree health
  • $770,000, up from $669,000, for casualty and property insurance
  • Police overtime is $95,000, up from $75,000, for shift overtime and training programs.
  • $115,000 is budgeted for animal control, up from $80,000, due to the increase in population
  • Fire overtime is $110,000, up from $100,000 last year
  • $880,000 is budgeted for the airport, which also will receive $2.3 million in grant funding for Taxiway B improvements.
  • $100,000 budgeted to the Utility budget for the engineering and design of a new water and sewer operations building
  • $43,000 budgeted for a stormwater assessment fee study

Elsewhere, the city council unanimously approved a second reading of an ordinance that raises water and sewer rates for Zephyrhills residents.

That means a 4 percent increase in water rates and an 8 percent increase in sewer rates for all customers each year, for a five-year period, beginning Jan. 1 and running through fiscal 2022.

Plans call for the added revenue to go toward utility operating expenses and $27 million in capital projects planned through fiscal 2022.

As an example, a customer in Zephyrhills using 3,000 gallons of water per month currently sees a bill of $40.03. With the January rate hike, the bill would rise to $43.14, an increase of $3.12. Users of 5,000 gallons per month would see their bills increase from $53.29 to 57.52, an increase of $4.23; while users of 7,500 gallons of water a month would see their bills increase from $73.12 to $78.75, an increase of $5.63.

A recent study conducted by Raftelis Finance Consultants, found that 79 percent of residential customers use 5,000 gallons or less a month.

The city’s last five-year rate hike, approved in 2012, called for a 10 percent hike for the first three years and 5 percent the final two years.

City manager Steve Spina received positive reviews on his annual performance evaluation from the city’s five council members, scoring a 4.62 (out of 5) on the evaluation. (File)

In other action, city manager Steve Spina received overwhelmingly positive reviews on his annual performance evaluation from the city’s five council members.

Spina was scored a 4.62 (out of 5) on the evaluation, which is used to measure the manager’s ability to respond to the needs of individual city council members, and compliance of financial and management duties required by the charter.

The form used for the evaluation is comprehensive and covers many aspects of the city manager’s duties and responsibilities.

Spina essentially was evaluated on personnel skills, relationship with elected officials, personal skills and status, policy execution, reporting, citizen relations, staffing, supervision and community visibility, and so on.

Councilman Ken Compton complimented Spina for serving the city for nearly three decades, for keeping millage rates low, and for leadership in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

Council vice president Lance Smith praised Spina for fostering a constructive work environment citywide.

“People aren’t afraid to come up to you even if they don’t agree with what you do, and I think that’s commendable,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, and after it’s all fleshed out, everybody still works together. That’s not easy to do, and I commend you for it.”

Council president Alan Knight, meanwhile, thanked Spina for navigating the city as it continues to grow.

“I can’t tell you how well you’ve gotten us during this ‘explosion.’ You’ve made everything absolutely perfect for us to be able to do some of the things we’ve done,” Knight said.

Last June, the council voted unanimously to increase Spina’s salary by 16 percent, to about $118,000, citing strong job performance as both the interim and permanent city manager after the ouster of former manager Jim Drumm in 2014.

Spina took the job following his own retirement from the position in 2011 after 15 years.

“I couldn’t do the job I do without department heads backing me and supporting me, and being so knowledgeable in their respective fields, and the employees at large,” Spina, addressing the council, said.

Published Oct. 4, 2017




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