New Smyrna Beach half-million-plus in budget deficit; tough times ahead in meeting expenses without further cuts in spending

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Photo and story submitted by contributing writer Dale Smith / City Finance Director Althea Philord informs city commissioners on half-million-plus deficit and a three-year run of revenue shortfalls with the tax rate unchanged unless further cuts in spending are made.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH – City commissioners are staring at a $541,000 deficit for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 and are reviewing budget projections to whittle away at that figure.

Commissioners held a special meeting Tuesday prior to the regular city commission meeting so staff could give an update on the proposed budget. City Manager Pam Brangaccio and Finance Director Althea Philord outlined a plan of action that would get the city closer to a balanced budget.

Philord told commissioners that at the existing levy of $3.749 per $1,000 of taxable property, the city budget will be out of whack by more than a half million dollars.

Philord said the shortfall can be blamed on continued spiraling taxable property values by as much as eight percent. She estimates the spiral will continue downward with a 3-percent dip in fiscal 2012-2013. Philord said she doesn’t see a return to black figures until fiscal 2015-'16 year when she projects a possible surplus of just under $575,000, providing the millage rate remains as it is today.

Commissioner Jack Grasty emphasized what they currently have is only projections and is predicated on having the millage rate stay at $3.479. “We’re trying to look at areas where we can save money,” he said. “We need to see what we have to work with before our budget workshop later this spring.”

Commissioner Judy Reiker added, “We’d like to see it (millage rate) stay the same each year. But unfortunately we don’t have a crystal ball to predict where that rate will go.”

Brangaccio said the city will continue to tighten up all line items and will be flat on salaries and expenditures.

Philord outlined an action plan that she believes will guide the city toward a balanced budget this fiscal year. Among the areas under review is the Volusia County Sheriff’s proposal to take over the Regional Communications Center with a potential savings of almost $347,000 for New Smyrna Beach.

Ongoing negotiations with the city’s three unions over wages, benefits and pensions will continue as will continuous reviews of operating expenditures and consolidation of services.

Philord said the city will also explore partnerships and contracts for services with Volusia County, Edgewater and Port Orange.

About the contributing writer:

Dale Smith is a resident of New Smyrna Beach, who has reported on local news in Volusia County since October 2009.  His writing background includes a mix of journalism and public relations in several community newspapers and a p.r. firm in northern Virginia. He attended Barton Academy in Barton, Vt., and the Cambridge (Mass.) School of Broadcasting for radio & TV broadcasting.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com. Florida's first around-the-clock newspaper was launched April 7, 2008, in New Smyrna Beach, initially as NSBNews.net and VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Headline Surfer® Publisher Henry Frederick, is recognized as one of Florida's top award-winning cops & courts reporters, who has received more awards for such coverage than any other reporter working in Central Florida. He's the top journalist in the Florida Press Club two years running with seven journalism awards for 15 breaking news and investigative stories, three blogs and top internet site. He's the only reporter to win awards for coverage of the Trayvon Martin slaying as well as the subsequent George Zimmerman murder trial acquittal in Sanford. He's also won state, regional and national journalism awards for his coverage of cops and courts fear 8 1/2 years at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, where he witnessed and reported on the execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos and covered the civil trial brought by NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt's widow to keep his autopsy files sealed. Before that before he covered cops & courts for Gannett Suburban Newspapers / The Journal News in Westchester and Rockland counties in New York, where he won a highly-coveted Associated Press Award for breaking news. Before launching the 24/7 internet newspaper in 2008, he was an award-winning city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette, in his native Massachusetts for two years, winning a national investigative award on municipal corruption. The first of Frederick's three books, for which he has secured publishing rights, is called "Creepy Ass Cracker" (840 pages, Xlibris), which will hit bookstores in September. His second book, "Wrestling ReWind," is expected to be published in January 2015. The third book is not yet titled.
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