Proposed budget also includes development funding, two new jobs
By B.C. Manion
After years of belt-tightening, the city of Zephyrhills is planning to give its employees a 2 percent raise.
It may not be a huge increase, but it is a tangible sign of the city’s appreciation for its employees’ efforts, said Mayor Steve Van Gorden.
The raise is included in the city’s proposed budget, which gained first-round approval by the Zephyrhills City Council on July 30 and will be considered for final adoption on Sept. 24.
If the raise is approved, it will take effect Jan. 6.
City manager Jim Drumm said he was able to propose the raise because the city has reduced its costs through downsizing its staff for the past three years.
The city’s proposed spending plan also calls for trimming three full-time positions and adding two. The new positions are a police sergeant and a deputy airport manager.
The sergeant will replace a police captain job that was eliminated from last year’s budget. The sergeant’s spot is at a lower pay grade and involves working on the street instead of behind a desk, Drumm said.
The other new job is for an employee who already works at the airport, Drumm said. Nathan Coleman would assume that post and will work closely with the city’s new airport manager, Michael Handrahan, who is scheduled to begin work on Nov. 1.
Drumm recommended trimming two vacant positions in the public works department. He also has proposed cutting the slot for the city planner/economic development coordinator, which is occupied.
In a budget letter to council members, Drumm wrote he would prefer not to cut a position that is occupied. However, he added, he believes eliminating the post is necessary if the city wishes to contract for outside services to administer economic development efforts.
Council members are considering different scenarios to amp up efforts to help local businesses grow, attract new companies and enhance the city’s economic health.
In one option, the Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce would take a leadership role. In another, the city may contract with the Pasco Economic Development Council to focus on those efforts.
Or, it may use city personnel to accomplish that mission, Drumm said. He said the final outcome could be a hybrid of the various proposals.
The chamber’s executive board doesn’t want to contract out the work to another group because they think it’s essential that whomever leads the effort has a firm grasp on the city’s attributes and its business community’s interests, along with a relationship with other community organizations and the general public.
The chamber’s board recommended the city allocate up to $100,000 for economic development efforts.
Of that, the chamber would receive $50,000 to provide administrative, managerial and leadership support to the economic development group. Their recommendation also includes $25,000 for startup, marketing and operational support and $25,000 to cover half the salary of a city position that would be assigned to work on economic development efforts.
The $25,000 for startup and marketing costs would be kept in a city budget, Drumm said.
The city manager said he sees strengths in each of the various models.
The chamber may be a stronger player when it comes to being knowledgeable about local business issues and interests, Drumm said. But the economic development council may be more plugged into leads for companies outside of the area that the city may want to target.
The city’s staff, on the other hand, is knowledgeable about government requirements and regulations that businesses must meet in order to establish a location in the city or expand one, Drumm said.
The city manager said he’s not sure what the final form will be, but he knows the mayor and city council want to step up efforts to boost the economy and attract more jobs.
In another move aimed at helping the city maximize its potential, the budget includes about $60,000 to have a study done by outside consultants to advise on steps to make the best use of Zephyrhills’ assets and help generate more jobs.
Pasco did a similar study, and it led to significant changes in the way the county is planning for its future and marketing itself.
Pasco uses incentives to lure new companies. It has identified areas where it is encouraging an urban scale of development and other locations the county thinks should remain rural.
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