Governing bodies will begin the process of finalizing budgets next week with public hearings.
The Gulf County School Board will hold its final budget hearing Monday followed in successive days by the Board of County Commissioners and the city of Port St. Joe.
Each hearing begins at 5:01 p.m. ET.
Port St. Joe city commissioners examined their proposed balanced budget last week while receiving final numbers for employee health insurance.
The city will maintain the same millage rate of nearly six years, 3,5914, seeing an uptick in revenue of roughly $2,500 due to a slight increase in property values.
The city budget also includes a 3.5 percent increase in utility rates which will take effect next month.
This the fourth year in a five-year program of raising utility rates. The rates, which emerged from a rate study, are linked to the city’s long-term debt which was significantly bumped by construction of a new water plant and citywide improvements to the water distribution system.
The first year the increase was over 20 percent and each year the amount of increase has declined. Next year the scheduled increase is another 3 percent.
Health insurance for city employees went up by just under 5 percent, said the city’s broker Dwight Van Lierop, though the city will realize a savings of 5 percent in property and liability insurance.
The increase in health insurance costs to the city, which subsidizes $700 per month for all employees, will be $17,461.
The new fee structure raised premiums for employee-only insurance – carried by 47 of the 53 employees on the city’s plan – to $650.15.
“You are still under the cap (of $700),” said city manager Jim Anderson.
The city is also creating a position within Public Works to address parks and recreation.
The city has contracted out recreation costs – primarily upkeep of city parks and ball fields – the past five years but the contract had grown to a projected $45,000 for the coming year.
That, Public Works supervisor John Grantland, is enough to capture salary and benefits for a full-time employee, at a savings to the city, and staff had recommended bringing the work back in-house.
Grantland said programs the city wished to establish could be put in place.
“We will able to improve the area where there have been shortfalls the past five years,” Grantland said.
Commissioners could also realize some unexpected revenue during the coming year with Gulf Pines Hospital.
The vacant property is free and clear of title liens and commissioners hope to raze the building and decide on plat of six single-family home sites and sell the land in the coming year.
At the very least, commissioners will need to pay for survey and determine a layout – items not in the budget – before advertising to sell the land.
Another potential variable is solid waste. It remains unclear what the city will pay in tipping fees in the coming fiscal year. The tipping fees will depend