Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Lake City Annual Report

I extend my sincere appreciation for your [City Council] continual support throughout this past budget year and commend your courage in approving many challenging financial and personnel requests. I applaud the City Staff for contributing to a progressive year 2009-2010 and thank everyone for their unyielding cooperation and assistance in preparing a most successful FY11 Budget.  


The FY10 Annual Finance and Administration Report proclaimed that City officials would identify and take advantage of every option for stabilizing and balancing the budget within each respective fund.

Throughout 2010, the City Staff were challenged to make aggressive but practical efforts toward funding adjustments and operational changes that would reduce the City’s expenses throughout the FY10 Budget Year and ideally “carryover” to FY11.  The principal objective was that future spending should not exceed revenues and that the City would “live within its means."

During the last three years, the economic recession among other factors, has impacted the City’s financial resources and will certainly continue as a threat to the City’s ability for sustaining customary revenue levels to fund traditional service delivery. Given the budgetary challenges faced in FY08, FY09 and FY10, the FY11 Budget should be viewed as “coming out of the eye of the hurricane” and the next three to four years may materialize as the most difficult financial period in the City’s history.   

In the short term, property values will continue to decline - The City’s gross tax value for FY12 will decline as much, and probably more, than FY11’s.

During the budget review process the annual cost for the City’s health care plan was projected to increase by 12% - 18%  ($250,000 - $350,000) but the added cost was totally eliminated due to aggressive Staff effort and there was “no increase” to  the employee health care program for FY11 and no decline in benefits.

Next year, it is likely that the City will endure another substantial decline in gross taxable value, be faced with additional increases in retirement contributions, and sustain “double digit” employee health care increases comparable to past years – Sustaining the financial resources to provide for the City’s operational needs will get any easier, anytime soon!


Paramount among the changes that produced the most beneficial results during FY10 was creation of the City’s Administrative Services Department and designation of the “Administrative Services” Director position.  With new leadership, desired expectations for improvements were greatly surpassed and the Department has evolved to become a dependable source of “stability” and “consistency” in tending to the City’s administrative, personnel, financial, purchasing and risk management needs.

The City’s new employee “Classification Plan” was completed and approved by the City Council during June 2010. Employee pay inconsistencies were identified and corrected during the process.

The Classification Plan is the first step to improving the City’s overall Personnel Management System and will be incorporated into a full revision of the City Personnel Policy Manual.


The City’s annual financial climate is determined by comparison of recurring revenues, reserve revenues, expenditures, liabilities and debt service. During FY10, several major financial initiatives designed to strengthen City finances were initiated by the Staff and approved by the City Council.  Significant issues which will have direct influence on the City financial climate as we move into FY 2011 are:

 a. Refunding of City Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, Series 2000 and issuance of $2,000,000 in new revenue.

b.  Refunding of City Utilities Revenue Bonds, Series 1998A and 2000 and issuance of $18 million in new revenue for the proposed Kicklighter Road Wastewater Treatment Plant and various improvements to the existing St. Margaret’s Street Plant. The City saved approximately $3.7 million or about $123,000 annually over what it would have cost if conventional tax-exempt bonds had been used.

c.  Enterprise Inc. Fleet Services.    The City’s “general purpose” vehicle fleet will begin transition during early 2011 under a new leasing program from Enterprise, Inc.

 d.  Health Insurance Costs.  Throughout the FY11 Budget process, the City evaluated several options relevant to health costs to minimize and/or eliminate a proposed 12-18% cost increase ($250,000 - $400,000) on the existing health plan.   The effort was highly successful and for FY11, the City did not incur any increase in health care cost.  Further reductions may result for a family coverage “opt out” program which will be offered to eligible employees during FY11.

 e.   Target Economic Incentive.    The records on the Target Project reflect an outstanding community collaboration which gained Target’s selection of the Lake City site for its cold storage distribution center.

 f.    Personnel Costs.   Notes of consideration:
      • Hiring Freeze – Still in force for FY11
      • Lay Offs – No lay offs were required for FY11.
      • Merit Increases –   FY11 Budget funded for 25% of City employees to receive a 3% merit increase based on employee evaluations from FY10.

g.    Employee Classification and Pay Plan.   All City employees are reflected on the new Classification Plan and assigned the appropriate pay grade and step as designed and recommended by the Evergreen Study.   Personnel cost reductions as a result of this initiative - $282,867.21. 

h.  Utilities and  Energy Costs:   Based upon the Florida Power and Light (FPL) energy use report for the period July 2009 through June 2010, the City’s overall energy consumption was reduced by just over 5%.  This was due to an aggressive energy conservation effort by the City Staff.    The City’s collective utility cost was reduced by $231,944 from the previous period, July 2008 – July 2009.

The Columbia County’s Certification of Taxable Value revealed a loss to Lake City’s tax base of $29,574,540 -- a consequence of “flat” growth and declining property values.   To hold the line, the millage rate was increased from the prior year’s 3.7741 to 3.9816 mills – this rate was still below the “roll-back” rate and no additional tax revenue will be generated for FY11.

The City’s “budget climate” is moving in a positive direction and given the dire economic conditions, is remarkably stable.   The City’s Capital Improvement Program will have new life for FY10 and with proper planning can continue into subsequent years.  The City’s aging vehicle fleet will begin rotating out in November 2010 with the Enterprise Fleet Management program.



  • Adopted tax rate for FY 2010 is 3.9816 mills.   For a home owner with an assessed home value of $150,000, and the $50,000 homestead exemption, the owner would pay $398.16 in City Ad Valorem taxes.
  • City personnel costs were funded at $12,889,283 in the FY10 budget and ended at actual of $12,507,851- a $381,432 decrease in salaries for the year. 
  • City personnel costs are projected at $12,760,752 for FY11.  Increases in employee retirement contributions account for $223,000 of the increase, otherwise,  personnel costs from FY10 to FY11 would reflect only a minimal ($30,000) increase.  
  • City employees are not projected to receive an FY11 COLA increase again for the 5th year.  However, the top 25% of City employees are projected to receive a 3% merit increase during FY11.
  • Transfer from General Fund:  $422,014 (a decrease of $371,237 from FY10)
  • Transfer from Enterprise Fund: $823,739  (a decrease of $130,075 from FY10)
  • Decline in gross taxable value from FY10 to FY11  = $29,574,540
  • With a millage rate of 3.9816, no additional tax revenue will be realized for FY11.
  • A $350,000 economic incentive payment is obligated to the Columbia County Economic Fund on behalf of Target Corporation.
  • The City’s General Fund revenue decreased by $638,987 in FY10 and $180,537 for FY11.   Further decreases may be expected for FY12.
  • State Shared Revenue decreased by $334,752 in FY10 and $365,858 for FY11 and further decreases are expected.  Further decreases may be expected for FY12.
  • The General Fund  “contingency” for this year is established at $250,000.
  • The Saint Margaret Street Waste Water Facility Reuse Water project is substantially complete and will go into operation in January 2011.   



The City debt ratio remains well within desired standards


a.      Continue cost-cutting measures and identification of additional revenue sources which will ultimately eliminate the City’s General Fund revenue deficit and reliance on Enterprise Fund transfers.  The City’s success during FY10 was exceptional.

b.      Ensure that the City has adequate capacity in wastewater systems to meet future demands of anticipated growth and to comply with regulatory requirements.

c.       Strive to improve the efficiency of City government by making better use of information technology as a tool and by consolidating certain government functions through intergovernmental cooperation where beneficial, and where possible.

d.       Complete the CRA Redevelopment Plan revision during 2010 to incorporate a redevelopment vision for the expanded area and to update the vision for the older CRA.  

e.       Place a high priority on working and supporting the Columbia County Industrial Development Authority in meeting development goals for quality job creation and strong capital investment levels for businesses desiring to locate within Lake City.

f.       Work aggressively to bring the proposed “Inland Port” facility to Columbia County. The City’s new water plant and planned sewer expansion will be economically advantageous to serve the proposed Columbia County site for a port.


The City’s 2010 Budget Year ended with highly encouraging results.  Many innovative cost cutting and revenue generating measures were implemented during the year which has prepared the City to efficiently manage the challenging economic threats for FY11 and at least three years beyond.  FY10 was a very productive year and the benefits of the Staff’s efforts and the Council’s support will become visible during Budget Year 2011 – The “Fruit” will began to grow!

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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This abridged version of the City Manager's 2011 Annual Report was prepared by the Observer

The requirements of both the County and City Charter require their respective managers to prepare annual reports.
The County Annual Report story
The County Annual Report

Gene Bullard - Human Resource Dir.
Grayson Cason – Exec. Dir. Admin.
Dave Clanton - Exec. Dir.Utilities 
Debbie Garbett - Purchasing Director 
Argatha Gilmore - Police Chief 
Nick Harwell - Customer Service Dir. 
Wendell Johnson - ICMA FM City Man.
Jackie Kite - CRA Administrator 
Larry Lee - Growth Management Dir.
Roger Little - Recreation Director
Zack Mears - IT Director 
Tom Sawyer - Airport Director
Audrey Sikes CMC. - City Clerk 
Carlton Tunsil - Fire Chief
Dorothy Tyre - Finance Director
Audre Washington - Citizens Advocate