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Plant City Observer Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 3 months ago

Public invited to discuss city budget

Following a presentation Monday morning, two public hearings were set to discuss the proposed 2018-2019 city budget.
by: Breanne Williams Staff Writer

The proposed city budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal was presented Monday morning in a special meeting at City Hall.

Two public hearings regarding the budget have been set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 and 24, where members of the public can attend the corresponding commission meetings to discuss the proposed plan.

During the presentation it was announced the millage rate was proposed to remain the same and commissioners approved City Manager Bill McDaniel to advise the property appraiser of the agreed-upon rate.

The budget shows the city plans to allot $125,000 for the Plant City Economic Development Corporation to continue to market Plant City on a full-time basis, and $25,000 is being given for the annual investment fee to the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.

The city also plans to give the Plant City Chamber of Commerce $65,000, the Boys and Girls Club of Plant City $20,000, the Railroad Museum Society $25,000, the 1914 Building $50,000, Plant City Art Council $6,000 and $2,000 each to Black Heritage Celebration, Improvement League of Plant City and the Christmas Parade.

Improvements for the Mahoney Street, North Municipal and South Municipal parking lots are also included in the plan, which will further the City Manager’s push for downtown’s restoration.

Following the presentation of the budget, city commissioners commented on things they would like to consider adding or discuss for future budgets. Mayor Rick Lott said he has had the opportunity to meet with many real estate parties and they are often asking what the next step for the city is.

“They want to know, ‘What’s the next County Line Road?’” Lott said. “When speaking with them they shared their opinions that there isn’t much left in the retail commercial world anymore. Most of what they’re seeing is focused on industrial and housing.”

Lott said he was curious as to whether the city should consider taking State Road 39 South and doing “something like we did with County Line Road.”

He said he would hate for the city to have to wait an entire year to begin moving on what could be a great opportunity. Chief Financial Officer Diane Reichard said there could be a special meeting later on to make the budget adjustment if needed and that they would begin reevaluating it now in preparation.

Commissioner Bill Dodson also chimed in, reminiscing on their decision years ago to choose County Line Road over SR 39 South.

“At that time County Line Road was the best bet, but we knew everything is just a matter of time,” Dodson said. “It may now be time.”

Vice Mayor Nate Kilton agreed that looking at SR 39 South was a wise decision, but also encouraged the city to expand its gaze to include the land surrounding Alexander Street north of I-4. While it is just an option to keep on the table, he said he thinks property owners would not get the same opportunity developing under the county that they would if they developed under the city of Plant City.

Commissioner Mary Mathis brought up another possible amendment to the budget. She said she had Human Resources do a search to inquire as to the possibility of offering city health insurance to the sitting commissioners. They found several do offer that benefit and Mathis said it was something to consider.

Commissioners were asked to take some time to think it over and then Reichard would find out if it was something they wanted to pursue. If so, she said she would have to amend the budget before the public hearing.

It would cost the city approximately $8,000 per commissioner per year to add it to the budget and a family rate would be even higher. However, the individual commissioners could choose not to take the insurance if they did not need it.

They agreed to think it over, though Commissioner Mike Sparkman said he didn’t think it was a good idea.

“Personally I don’t see the need for this,” Sparkman said. “What it’s gonna do, is it’s going to double our salaries in a sense. We’re getting up to $8,000 a year just to sit up here. This would cost almost $16,000 a year for us to sit up here. I would oppose it. I don’t think it’s anything we should be putting on our citizens.”

The budget in its entirety can be discussed during the upcoming public hearings and commissioners can vote to approve the budget on Sept. 24. If approved, it will go into effect on Oct. 1.

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