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Williston finances stay strong

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck

Three quarters into the current fiscal year, the city of Williston’s finances are just about on target.

Tuesday night, council members learned the 2012-2013 fiscal year is 75 percent complete and revenues are about 71 percent of projections. Ideally, according to Stephen Bloom, finance director, the revenues should also be at 75 percent or higher, but things are a little sluggish.

However, offsetting the decreased revenues are expenses that are 69 percent. Expenditures should be 75 percent or less, Bloom said.

With expenses lower than projections, the city’s finances are stable and strong.

“Overall, everything is well,” Bloom told council members.

The airport budget also saw another good month in June, he said. The airport started off the fiscal year with a $220,000 deficit and is now at a $86,000 deficit.

Bloom said it should break even or be better by the end of the next fiscal year.

In other business, the council heard a 90-minute presentation from Bryan Reardon, a senior account executive with Energy Systems Group (ESG).

The company specializes in finding ways, particularly via energy, for government bodies to save money.

A preliminary review of the cities facilities and utilities show a number of ways the city is losing money, Reardon said.

Preliminary findings showed that generally the city’s facilities are in good condition. The city has already witnessed a 25 percent energy  consumption reduction thanks to its new HVAC system.

ESG recommended the city utilize higher efficient lighting and low flow water fixtures.

The city’s street lights are outdated, Reardon said, and there is too much water loss–about 31 percent. Some of that water loss can be attributed to aging and inaccurate meters and system leaks.

ESG recommended installing LED street lights, going to an automatic metering system and utilizing variable frequency drives with oxygen level sensors at the waste water treatment plant.

The projected costs for these changes would cost about $2.5 million, Reardon said, but the city could reap as much as $270,000 annually in savings.

He stressed that while the initial investment may be expensive, the newer equipment would have a longer life cycle and would not need replacing as often as that which is currently in place.

The city council now must decide if it wants a more comprehensive study with clearer numbers.

Both Councilors Cal Byrd and Jack Screws initially said they favored a workshop to discuss what they had heard.

Screws said he favored the opportunity to upgrade the city’s facilities.

“Our facilities,” he said, “10 years from now–if we do nothing–will be bad. I’m in favor of moving forward.”

But Council Vice President Charles Goodman, presiding in the absence of President Jason Cason, said he had so many questions, he didn’t know where to begin.

“Numbers can be made to say what you want,” Goodman said. “These [a handout Reardon gave council members] don’t say what I’m hearing.

“Where are the true savings coming from? I’m not comfortable here, gentlemen.”

After asking Reardon several questions, the council decided a workshop was in order and set next Tuesday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m. to further evaluate what they heard Tuesday night.

In other business, council:

• changed its September meetings to coincide with budget hearings. The hearings will begin at 6:50 p.m. and the council meetings will follow on Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.

• announced that Rep. Charlie Stone (R-District 22) will be at the council chambers Monday, Aug. 12 at 10 a.m. to meet with constituents.

Stone will hold office hours in Williston the first Tuesday of every month from 1:30-4 p.m. To reach Stone between office hours, call 352-291-4436 or visit 3001 SW College Rd. Suite 104, Ocala.