The St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners has announced to Historic City News that the first public hearing to consider the Fiscal Year 2009 Recommended Budget is set for Tuesday, September 16 at 5:30 pm and the final public hearing and adoption of the Fiscal Year 2009 millage rate and budget is tentatively set for Tuesday, September 30 at 5:30 pm.
Challenges with the Fiscal Year 2009 Recommended Budget included decreased revenue of $6.5 million in property taxes and another $6.2 million in impact fees. Additionally, the budget reflects an additional $1.3 million expense for increased fuel costs, up 59 percent from Fiscal Year 2008, and an extra half-million dollars to fund the Florida Power and Light mid-year rate increase. The budget also required the County to address the mandated Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) obligation of $14 million.
Despite all those financial challenges, the Recommended St. Johns County Budget for Fiscal Year 2009 is estimated at $671.9 million, down $35.1 million from Fiscal Year 2008. The approximately five percent savings include reductions in the General Fund ($9.5), Capital Improvements ($8.5), CRA Funds ($8.4), Transportation Trust Fund ($7.5), Utility Services ($6.9) and Impact Fees ($6.2), while balancing increases in the mandated Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund ($8.1) and Health Insurance Fund ($4.7).
One major reduction in the budget has come from eliminating positions during the past two years. In Fiscal Year 2008, the County hired 12 new fire services staff, yet still achieved a net reduction of 47 total positions. The County continued that workforce reduction for the Fiscal Year 2009 Recommended Budget, which resulted in a net reduction of 43 positions while adding 11 new fire services positions. That means the two-year combination has been 23 additional staff to expand the professional fire services department, but a county-wide net reduction of 90 employees. The 90 eliminated positions, spread among various departments and realized through attrition and a hiring chill, will bring an estimated salary and benefits savings of $2.4 million annually.
The countywide millage rates for Fiscal Year 2009 are essentially flat compared to the prior year. The exceptions are the Vilano and St. Augustine Lighting Districts, which have experienced significantly higher utility costs.
The budget public hearings will be held in the County Auditorium, located at 4020 Lewis Speedway. For additional information on the 2009 Recommended Budget, contact Jesse Dunn, Assistant Director of the Office of Management and Budget, at 209-0568.