Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neptune Budget Talks Heat Up Mayor Walks out during Workshop

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Neptune Budget Talks Heat Up Mayor Walks out during Workshop

Article excerpt

NEPTUNE BEACH -- Faced with the prospect of longer police response times, broken-down city equipment and other problems, city officials plan to dip into savings to loosen their tight budget.

But they're not adding a lot to the pot. The City Council authorized the city manager Tuesday to draw $275,000 from a $2.1 million general fund reserve to help maintain basic city services.

City Manager Dick Linn had warned the councilmen that if they didn't pad next year's budget, police would take longer to respond, old equipment wouldn't be replaced or repaired and lifeguard hours would be shortened.

The council didn't agree to the plan until after Mayor George Vaughn left the workshop unexpectedly. He told his four fellow council members he was unhappy with the extensive cuts made during weeks of budget talks. He said he didn't want to be a part of the process anymore. And he walked out.

Linn made substantial cuts in every department after the council instructed him to produce a balanced general operating budget for 2000-01 that didn't raise property taxes or use any of the city's reserves.

"For the city to live within these levels of funding will be nearly impossible without reducing the quality of services we provide our residents," Linn wrote in a memo to the council.

Council members told Linn to distribute no more than $125,000 throughout the budget in areas where he thinks the funds are most needed. They also agreed to put $150,000 in a fund that could be used throughout the year in any department with their approval.

With the additional money, the city's proposed general operating budget for next year would be about $3.1 million. The general operating budget is just a piece of the city's overall budget, which also includes enterprise, special revenue and capital project funds.

The council is scheduled to discuss the revised budget again Sept. …

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