Did public know about $417,000 vote?

300 REGAN WORKSHOPHistoric City News has received scores of e-mail and comments, on historiccity.com and our facebook, from readers responding to an editorial we ran after the July 22nd meeting of the St Augustine City Commission, titled “Hold on to your wallets”.

The article questioned if anything in the agenda would lead a reasonable person to expect that the commission was going to vote to approve a $417,000 financial commitment before the meeting.

Buried on page 3-of-3 of the agenda, in item 14-of-16 items, under “Items by City Manager”, an entry appears that says, “Presentation relevant to the Mumford & Sons Gentlemen of the Road Tour (GOTR). J. Regan, City Manager.

No mention of money, no figures, no warning of a pending vote.

If you dig further, into separate backup documents, Historic City News found that Meredith L Breidenstein, Financial Services Group Manager, signed a memorandum on behalf of Mark R Litzinger, City Comptroller, on July 17th. The memo was addressed to City Manager John Regan and asked for two items related to the September Mumford concert to be included on the July 22nd commission meeting agenda.

The first item, an Interlocal Agreement with St Johns County, obligates the City of St Augustine to pay $50,000 to the county for “advisory services in planning and producing the Mumford and Sons’ Gentlemen of the Road St Augustine Stopover”.

Reporters clearly saw the county agenda item, in its full and complete text, and the proposed resolution for the city commission authorizing the spending of $50,000 for the consulting services. We reported it in our article titled “Comptroller wants to tap City reserves for Mumford concert”.

The second item, a six-page summary of expected revenue and expenses, with some assumptions and omitted values, simply states, “The budget for the event and a request for the use of Reserve Funds”.

Again, no figures were quoted in the request; only the six-page income and expense projections.

The summary indicated that the city comptroller believes that the city will realize total revenues of $231,953 from the concert, but that is not inclusive of all sources. In footnotes, Litzinger clarified that a Tourist Development Council Funding Request, presented on behalf of the city by county employee Ryan Murphy, for and additional $129,485 was submitted on June 17th and recommended by the funding panel.
This amount is currently not reflected in the “Total Revenues” above because the funding decision must be approved by the St Johns County Board of County Commissioners. They will take the item up at their August 6th meeting.

Since those TDC reserve funds are restricted to the parking and transit expenses for the concert (projected to be $220,523) and require a 1:1 match by the city (projected to be $150,000 from sales of armbands) the buses may actually cover — if the TDC grant comes through. There should be no need to obligate city reserve funds for the shuttle buses.

That one item, the revenue of which is omitted from the financial report presented to both the TDC and public, represents half of the $417,000 commitment requested by Regan and Litzinger and approved in a split vote of three commissioners.

$140,915 is the projected cost to prepare Francis Field to be used as a concert venue for the 25,000 ticketed attendees — instead of the baseball field and sporting events venue for which the property was donated to the city. The concert promoters are willing to kick in $81,953 for those costs, but the city is on the hook for $58,962 — a dead expense to the taxpayers, but a long way from $417,000.

There are two additional financial burdens disclosed in the summary — $50,000 for the interlocal consulting agreement with the county, and another $6,400 for city employees. According to the financial statement provided by Litzinger, the later expense was not included in the original budget presented to the TDC because “we have recently determined city staff, that is paid hourly, may need some time in addition to their regular work schedules, to complete the work necessary for this event”. That necessary work would include preparation for the event, logistics, contracts, liaison with both St Johns County and AC Entertainment, financial analysis, etc.

The summary financial statement in the backup documents that was available Friday before the Monday meeting, indicates:

 

REVENUES
Parking and Transit Shuttle
150,000
Francis Field Event Public Safety
81,953
Total Revenues
231,953
EXPENDITURES
Parking and Transit Shuttle
220,523
Francis Field Event Public Safely
140,915
1) SJC lnterlocal Agreement
50,000
2) COSA Staff Overtime
6,400
Total Expenditures
417,838
DIFFERENCE
-185,885

 

In other words, less the $25,000 in ticket commission which isn’t itemized, and the $129,485 in TDC grant proceeds for the shuttle buses which wasn’t deducted, the City is prepared to lose $185,885 to entertain the ticketholders. And, notwithstanding Litzinger’s omissions, the shortfall was only projected to be less than half of City Manager John Regan’s requested funding.

Historic City News is continuing to investigate the complaints from our readers and to determine the true scope of city taxpayer’s risk. Regardless the outcome of our findings, it is abundantly clear, from the response received over the past week, that Historic City News readers feel the public was not adequately informed. Nor, do they seem to support the use of public funds for a private music concert that is likely to cause residents more inconvenience than entertainment.

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