Monday, September 1, 2014

First Belle Isle Budget Hearing This Wednesday

Last week, our City Council began discussion of the proposed 2014-2015 Belle Isle City Budget at the morning workshop meeting. These discussions are set to continue at the specially-held budget hearing this Wednesday, September 3 at 6:00 p.m. This special Wednesday meeting replaces the usual Tuesday night meeting, which has been cancelled for the month of September.

Based on the discussion at the workshop meeting last week, it appears that increasing the revenue collected from Belle Isle residents is the top priority for many of our City officials.

Not but a few months ago, City Manager Keith Severns spoke strongly in support of seeking a $2 million low-interest bond to increase available funds in Belle Isle. On Wednesday, he reversed course, stating that "down the road, we are not going to be able to pay for the bond." Mr. Severns gave no reason for this drastic change in his assessment, leading some residents to wonder whether Belle Isle is unable to procure such a bond because of our City's debt ratio and inability to pledge an income stream for bond repayment.

Instead, many officials, including Mayor Brooks and Commissioner Van Dyke, strongly supported increasing the power company franchise fees collected from Belle Isle residents. These franchise fees are additional costs tacked on to residents' monthly power bills, and they are a popular revenue stream in many Florida municipalities. I personally believe that such franchise fees are popular among city governments because these fees are paid directly to the power company on a separate schedule from residents' regular taxes, meaning that many taxpayers will not recognize that their taxes have effectively increased.

Although there was a lot of discussion last Wednesday about ways to increase City revenue, very little time was spent discussing ways to realistically cut our City's expenses. You can get a look at these planned expenses in the proposed budget, linked below.

I have heard from many residents regarding simple ideas which could significantly cut our City's expenditures. I hope that anyone with similar ideas will attend the budget hearing this Wednesday, September 3 at 6:00 p.m. and make themselves heard!

Belle Isle Proposed Budget 2014-2015

Special Meeting Agenda - September 3, 2014

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