City's $31.6 Million Budget Gets OK
Haines City official says finances are in pretty healthy shape.

By Amber Smith
The Ledger

HAINES CITY -- City Finance Director Donald Carter said the city's financial status is pretty healthy.

City commissioners have approved the $31.6 million 200506 budget, which calls for keeping the property tax the same, adding 15 new employees and giving all full-time employees a 4 percent pay increase.

"The city is in good shape," Carter said.

Commissioners agreed to a 2.5 percent cost of living increase and a 1.5 percent pay adjustment.

The top five highest salaries with the increase as of Oct. 1 are:

City Manager Ann ToneyDeal, $112,043.
Fire Chief Lon Cheney, $81,758.
Finance Director Donald Carter, $72,696.
Community Development Director Richard Greenwood, $68,944.
Public Works Director Ronnie Cotton, $65,395.

Commissioners only discussed one area in detail during the two public hearings held on the budget in the past two weeks -the reorganization of administrators at the city Police Department.

Toney-Deal and the police and fire chiefs recommended the two deputy chief positions be eliminated.

Deputy Fire Chief Lonnie Large is retiring at the end of the month. His position will be turned into a fire marshal position effective Oct. 1.

Deputy Police Chief Wendall Maggard, who has also put in his retirement notice, will be placed on administrative leave Oct. 1 and will use his accrued vacation and sick time until Jan. 6.

Maggard requested his retirement be effective Jan. 6. He is on vacation for two weeks and could not be reached for comment.

His position will be replaced with two captain positions. One captain will be over administration and one captain will be over law enforcement, according to Police Chief Morris West. Two lieutenants would report to the captains.

Commissioner Roy Tyler questioned the logic of two captains.

"I don't see how this is going to work," Tyler said. "It doesn't change who answers to the chief administrator. All we are doing is moving some blocks around. This doesn't help the flow of accountability."

West said he was confident he could make the new plan work.

"Is it workable? Yes, it is," West said.

Originally, the reorganization plan had called for two captains and only one lieutenant, but Tyler suggested the additional lieutenant position.

Commissioners Philip Hinkle and Horace West agreed with Tyler.

Mayor Joanna Wilkinson said it was not the place of the commission to get too involved in personnel issues. She said the responsibility of making the new plan work falls on the chief.

"If it doesn't work, then he will have to deal with that," she said.

While approving the city's budget, the commissioners also approved the city's $8.4 million Community Redevelopment Agency budget.

The CRA funds will be used to pay for three large capital improvement projects in the city's downtown area, Oakland neighborhood area and Lake Eva Park area.

The entire city is in the CRA district except for housing developments like Southern Dunes and Blue Heron Bay. In a CRA district, the city receives all the taxes in excess of an amount set and agreed to by the county.

CRA funds can be used to make improvements or for capital projects in the blighted CRA district.

Carter said the city has $6.6 million in funds to spend on projects this year. CRA board members have approved $5.4 million for projects in 2005-2006.

Of that $5.4 million the city will do the following projects:

Will spend $1.45 million in the Oakland neighborhood. The main project is to build a new gymnasium at the Bethune Neighborhood Center.

Will spend $1.2 million in the downtown area. The main project is to acquire land for the Central Avenue project, which will add a new eastwest street to the downtown area and will increase parking.

Will spend $2.74 million in the Lake Eva Park area. The main project will be a $2.5 million lakeside banquet hall that will be available for event rental.

No one from the public spoke on the budget at either public hearing.

Commissioners said they were happy with the spending plan.

"I think staff has done an excellent job on the budget this year," Wilkinson said.

Amber Smith can be reached at or 863-422-6800.