New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer strikes cautious tone on annual audit when taking into account unfunded police and fire pension costs
NSBNews.net / community
VolusiaNews.net and NSBNews.net provide Volusia County with 24 / 7 Internet newspaper coverage for a 21st-century world.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- The news behind New Smyrna Beach's annual audit is good considering the escalating costs of government doing business in this economy.
City leaders are quick to applaud the one-year turnaround from deficit to healthy reserve in 2010.
"It's all good," Commissioner Lynne Plaskett said after the presentation by the city's auditor's, James Moore and Company, which took over responsibility for the city's books last year.
"I have never seen this much improvement in a government in a given year," noted Bernadette Britz-Parker, who presented the James Moore's findings to the City Commission on Tuesday.
New Smyrna Beach cut operating costs by nearly $782,000 while benefiting from $4.7 million extra in capital assets funding. The city had $37.4 million to work with, a drop of $168,000 over the previous year because tax revenues declined with lower values.
Only 35 percent of the revenue pie came from local taxes, a 10 percent less than in 2009, Public safety, followed by recreation and general government were fueled by those taxes.
Like Plaskett, first-term Mayor Adam Barringer had high praise for the city administration and Finance Director Althea Philord in particular, but he also struck a note of caution.
"James Moore recognized our turnaround," Barringer said, "with our business approach, but this audit does not take into account $10 million in unfunded liability for police and fire pensions."
If the city were required to count that balance on its books, a $7 million surplus would mean a $3 million deficit. More and more cities across the country are coming to that realization, Barringer said, with fiscal conservatives in government demanding the rank and file in the unions pay for more of their benefits.
Bob Walker, the new business agent for Teamsters Local 385, said it's not fair to cut back on what veteran cops and firefighters have earned. And that's the rub.
"We are not getting salary increases and we put our lives on the line every day," said Walker, veteran Daytona Beach homicide detective and briefly acting police chief in Oak Hill. "We've earned those retirements."
Barringer likened the unfunded pension funds like high-interest credit cards that go down, even in a bad economy: "You pay the minimum, but you don't quite get out from underneath them."
About the Blogger
Henry Frederick is editor/publisher of Headline Surfer, Florida's first 24/7 Internet newspaper, launched April 7, 2008 in New Smyrna Beach, and accessed via HeadlineSurfer.com, NSBNews.net & VolusiaNews.net. Headline Surfer is a registered trademark of NSB News LLC. Frederick was the top winner in the 2012 Florida Press Club contest: 1st place for Blog Writing & 3rd place each for General News Writing, Public Safety Reporting & Best Online Presence (with social media). He's received 18 major journalism awards as a breaking news, investigative reporter & city editor for daily newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts, New York & Connecticut since the mid-1980s.
View his blog archives here