As quickly as Plant City is growing, keeping up with the staffing demands has long been a struggle for the city. The proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year begins to tackle that issue with the addition of several new employees.
Thanks to an increase in revenue for the City of Plant City it appears some interesting changes are ahead as was evident in the budget workshop held Monday evening.
The total budget alone has nearly $10,000,000 more than last fiscal year. For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the city is working with $85,833,387, which includes $1,674,883 for the Community Redevelopment Agency. The current fiscal year, 2018-2019, had a total budget at the time of the initial budget workshops of $76,055,834, which included $1,440,307 for the CRA.
“I think the biggest thing is there’s a substantial increase year after year and that’s because of revenue,” City Manager Bill McDaniel said. “You have now the Transportation Referendum revenue of $3.2 million and there’s a third of the increase right there. There are other revenue increases because we’re in a strong economy and there’s going to be more revenue. That’s the first thing that jumps out. People might see that and go, ‘Oh my gosh,’ but you have to drill in and realize it’s actually a revenue-driven situation.”
The city is also reshuffling its distribution for some funds to mold the upcoming budget. Using the Community Investment Tax funds and the Capital Project Funds in the overall budget and investing that into the community via the stream of massive projects also quickly drives up budget numbers. One of the most anticipated aspects proposed in the new fiscal year’s budget, however, is the increase in staffing to several city departments.
The Fire Department’s budget alone is $6,508,841, with $500,000 allocated for a fire pumping apparatus and $400,000 allocated to renovate and upgrade Fire Station Two. With the upcoming completion of Fire Station Three, staffing has been a hot topic of conversation for over a year. This budget allows for the addition of three firefighters to complete the staffing register for Fire Station Three.
In October 2018, Plant City Fire Rescue was awarded the FEMA’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant (SAFER), which totaled $595,737 and is awarded through the Department of Homeland Security. This grant was the first step in helping ease the burden of staffing Fire Station Three as it helped employ three firefighters for three years.
In the first two years, the grant covers 75 percent of their salaries. In the last year, it will cover 35 percent of their salaries. The city is required to contribute a matching cost in the amount of $228,364. With a little reshuffling and the help of the grant, the city has planned to add three more staff members in the 2019-20 budget in hopes of bringing the total number of firefighters at the station to nine, which is full staffing level.
Plant City Police Department will also potentially see some new faces don the badge if the proposed budget is approved. Its 2019-20 fiscal year budget is $11,227,052, with a specific investment of $411,000 for 12 police vehicles. The budget will also allow for the addition of four police officers to the force, which has been a growing need as the staff has remained stagnant for years despite the massive growth across the city.
The same number of officers have had to cover an ever-growing city and, while they’ve made it work, incoming developments like North Park Isle as well as the focus on continuing to add more industrial buildings to the city limits will inevitably put a strain on law enforcement if more officers are not added to the force.
“We’ve got 11 and a half (full time equivalent) on the budget. Seven are public safety — four police, three fire — and we have four and half positions within the general fund for the rest of the city,” McDaniel said. “One of them is, we are adding a Code Enforcement officer for the (Community Redevelopment Agency). We will dedicate that person to that CRA effort and that is actually funded by the CRA. Right now the Building Department and Code Enforcement split an employee. That’s not working. What we’re doing is we’re making them whole on both sides. We added a net one person, divided into two positions.”
Code Enforcement will have their support and the Building Department will also have their own. For Code Enforcement, that person does all of the background work. They tackle the research and prepare the notices and act as a force multiplier because then the inspectors don’t have to come in and do the paperwork when they can be out on the road covering their large areas.
McDaniel said they’ve done extensive research on the issue and have found adding a team member to solely focus on the paperwork and research truly does “multiply by several times” the work and the volume of work each Code Inspector can handle if they aren’t spending hours behind the desk preparing for each individual case.