Deleon won't seek deeper AP tax cut
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - Will property taxes go down even more now that the city will be saving more than $2 million over four years by contracting with the Highlands County Sheriff's Office?
Published: August 8, 2012
Published: August 8, 2012
City Manager Julian Deleon has already proposed a 39 percent drop in the property tax rate to 3.6 mills from 5.8745 mills.
Deleon's proposed 2012-13 budget, with a 3.6 mill property tax, included funding for the police department.
So will the city council's vote Saturday to bring in the sheriff's office for law enforcement affect the property tax rate this year?
Deleon said he will stick with his 3.6 mill recommendation.
"I think a 39 percent reduction is significant," he said.
With either plan — keeping the police department with pension reforms or going with the sheriff's office — there will be some up-front costs, Deleon said. In choosing the sheriff's office, the city will have the cost of paying out vacation, sick and compensation time and any level of severance that is worked out for the police employees.
"More likely than not, we will reduce the millage again on 'year two' of the contract" with the sheriff's office, Deleon said.
According to Deleon's report on the police and sheriff's proposals, the original cost savings with the sheriff's office for the first year (2012-13) would be $519,695, and in the succeeding years $561,669, $684,437 and $682,692, for a total savings of about $2.45 million.
The savings include $80,000 per year for a position the police department would have had to create to oversee the department's accreditation process.
But the city later learned it will save $65,000 more annually in risk insurance by contracting with the sheriff's office for a total savings of $2.71 million.
That would bring the annual savings for the next four years to $584,695, $626,669, $749,437 and $747,437.
The calculations to estimate the savings were complex, Deleon noted. He compared the operating costs for the Avon Park Police Department with the operating costs for the sheriff's proposal but did not consider one-time costs in the analysis.
Also, the city council, through a resolution Saturday, approved a finance and budget policy manual that includes "internal controls" to start electronic fund transfers for the payment of city vendors.
"We took a huge step to electronically pay for vendor invoices," Deleon said. "This saves in staff time, promotes higher accountability, saves in envelopes and stamps and, more importantly, provides for timely payments of vendor invoices.
"This technology has been available for quite a while, and frankly, we were lagging."
The city's accounting office usually printed about 350 checks per month for signatures by the mayor and city manager, he said.
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