Historic City News watched Tuesday night as the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners adopted the final fiscal year 2010 budget of $611 million — a $47 million decrease from 2009 and a $122 million decrease since 2007.
Adoption of the final budget was the culmination of a lengthy process, which included unprecedented community outreach and public input over the past several months.
The final millage rate for the General Fund is 4.8 mils, consistent with the Tentative Budget. This millage rate will generate $98.3 million of revenue, down from the $100.8 million collected last year. This decision occurred after the Commission examined the impacts of a flat millage rate and determined the draconian impacts to public services and facilities would not be in the community’s best interest.
The Commission set the Fire District final millage at 1.2 mils, down from the Tentative Budget of 1.3 mils. This will generate $22.9 million, a reduction from $23.2 million in 2009. This level of funding, which includes a 3 percent raise for members of the fire union, will allow the Fire Department to continue operating at the status quo; however, it eliminates major renovations to two existing stations and potentially defers construction of the new Pine Island station. It may also mean laying off approximately 12 firefighters.
County Administrator Michael Wanchick is pleased with the final budget. “After hearing from hundreds of citizens during our Town Hall meetings and throughout the budget process, I believe this budget reflects what the community desires,” he said. “The final budget continues the trend begun in 2007 of reducing the County’s budget and overall taxes, while preserving most of the programs and services the community values. I appreciate the Commission and the community working together in achieving this balanced budget.”
The $47 million of savings will come at some cost to services. Some of the reductions made by the County have included:
-A reduction of 188 employee positions
-A one-week unpaid furlough for all non-union employees, as well as the Road and Bridge employees in the Carpenter’s Union who have voluntarily both foregone their contractual raises and agreed to take furloughs along with the rest of the County staff
-Significant reductions to capital projects, such as new roadways, parks, drainage improvements and libraries
-Deferred maintenance on County facilities, including buildings, roads, parks and medians
-Many other internal efficiencies
The budget goes into effect October 1, 2009, which marks the beginning of the 2010 County fiscal year.