Budget talks are underway in the City of Key West

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

It looks like the millage rate in the city will remain where it is.

Johnston said, “We’ve got an inflation rate. We’ve got a high cost of living down here. Al (city manager) is very serious on budgeting. In fact, one of the very early meetings that we had with Al when we were discussing our preliminary budget, Al committed to the residents and to the staff in the city of Key West, that he has no intention of raising our millage rate this year. He’s been diligent, and he takes his fiduciary responsibilities very seriously. He’s been taking a look at a number of issues, equipment, people, because as you know, we’ve had a number of positions that have been open in the city of Key West, some of them have been open for well over two years. So he’s taking a look at those and saying, if we haven’t filled them in two years, and we’ve been able to fulfill our responsibilities to our residents, then we don’t need that position or we may need in the future, come back and talk to me in the future and we’ll see what we could do. He’s systematically removing those from our budget process as well as making other cuts that again, allow us to remain an effective, efficient city hall, but also to have a great respect and place a great deal of importance on taking care of taxpayer money.”

The city may also discuss the possibility of bonding.

Johnston said, “For several years have been looking at bonding. The City of Key West virtually has no debt. We have a well-deserved high credit rating. So we are taking a look at bonding because as you know, United Street for instance, we had $5 million in our budget, which was one of the largest budgets we’ve ever had in the history of Key West and $5 million was required in order to repave just United Street this year. It’s an eye opener. Our streets and roads have gone up over 50% in the past year or two years. So we’re going to need an incredible amount of money not only to keep our roads and our sidewalks in good condition for our residents, but also to take a look at how we’re going to mitigate sea level rise.”

It could end up being billions of dollars in order to mitigate the rise in sea level.

Johnston continued, “So we’ve got some big ticket items in front of us and we feel that we haven’t gone out for bonding since our sewers about 30 years ago. So it’s time that we take a look at that, and use that as a source of making improvements in the city of Key West, instead of coming back every year and utilizing ad valorem taxes and our millage rate increase.”

Budget sessions will include three separate meetings.

One was this morning. Tomorrow will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday morning if needed.

Johnston said, “So come on in. We’re going to go department by department, take a look at every single request, every personnel request, every piece of equipment request and we’re going to analyze those, see if we can maybe make do with some vehicles for another year. But we’ll we’re going to take a really close look at this.”

The recent passing of Sonny Rivas and his memorial service reminded everyone in the Keys what Sonny meant to the community.

Johnston said, “Friends and family, we just want to pass along our deepest condolences. What a loss to our entire community. Mr. Rivas was a mainstay in the city of Key West and certainly in Bahama Village and his loss is all of our loss. So our condolences to family and friends.”

The overwhelming heat is something to consider now.

Johnston said, “So I would just say to everyone, please stay cool, stay hydrated. Stay out of the sun if you can, and take care of yourself with a very, very challenging weather time in Key West. So please make sure that you pay attention and stay hydrated.”

The next city commission meeting will be in September.

Johnston said, “We’ve got the month of August off. Al was very adamant about that. He wanted to make sure that every one of the families had a chance to take a family vacation before all of our kids headed back to school. So we’re going to take the month of August off and we’re going to hit it in September with a very heavy agenda.”